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Amanda Volk and Sudeep Sarma are 2023 Ferrell Award Recipients

Recent Ph.D. graduates Drs. Amanda Volk and Sudeep Sarma have been selected as the winner and honorable mention recipient, respectively, of the 2023 James K. Ferrell Outstanding Ph.D. Graduate Award. Although all of the award nominees were exceptional and deserving of recognition, these two graduates stood out above the rest.

woman with brown hair smilingDr. Volk’s graduate research, jointly supervised by Drs. Milad Abolhasani and Gregory Parsons, focused on molecular-layer deposition, self-driving laboratories, and the reinforcement learning guided discovery of colloidal-atomic layer deposition-based synthesis routes. Her work resulted in fourteen journal publications including in Nature Communications, Reaction Chemistry and Engineering, JVSTA, Advanced Materials, and Trends in Chemistry. Amanda is currently an NRC post-doctoral research associate at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), where she is working on self-driving laboratories and the algorithm-guided discovery and optimization of nanomaterials.

man in a suit smilingDr. Sarma’s research was supervised by Dr. Carol Hall. His dissertation, titled “Computational Design of Peptides as Detectors, Drugs and Biomaterials,” focused on utilizing Monte-Carlo sampling techniques and molecular-level simulations to design therapeutic peptides for Clostridioides difficileinfection, peptide-based probes for diagnostics, and peptide biomaterials. This research involved close collaboration with experimental groups at NC State, UNC-Chapel Hill, the University of Florida, Georgia Tech, and Harvard Medical School. Dr. Sarma has six journal articles published, and an additional two manuscripts currently under review in Protein Science and the Journal of Molecular Biology. Dr. Sarma is a Postdoctoral Fellow at Johns Hopkins University in Jeffrey Gray’s lab, where he is working on likelihood-based deep learning models and physics-based enhanced sampling methods for protein-protein and antibody-antigen docking.

The James K. Ferrell Outstanding Ph.D. Graduate Award recognizes an outstanding graduate of the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Ph.D. program who distinguished themselves in scholarship through publications, research-based honors and presentations, as well as in service through teaching and teaching assistant performance, graduate student recruiting, Graduate Student Association service and the mentorship of peers and undergraduate researchers. The award is named in memory of Dr. James K. Ferrell who was the first Ph.D. graduate from NC State’s chemical engineering program and then served as a faculty member and department head from 1966-1980. Funds for the award are made possible through the James K. Ferrell Graduate Student Memorial Fund.

Congratulations to Drs. Amanda Volk and Sudeep Sarma for your exemplary success as CBE graduate students!