PASADENA, Ca.— Yuki Takahashi's curiosity about outer space was sparked after he read 250 pages of an astronomy encyclopedia. Yuki was nine at the time. Such is the kind of intellectual verve two students at California Institute of Technology have shown in receiving prestigious Fulbright Scholarship Awards for 2001-2002. Takahashi, a senior graduating in the spring, and PhD candidate Jeffrey G. Linhardt will use the award to spend the academic year studying abroad.
Linhardt will spend time in two separate labs in the Netherlands, with the ongoing goal of designing new vaccines that induce a particular immune response. His research is concerned with dendrimers, a spherical polymer or chemical compound that can serve as a kind of scaffolding for different vaccines. The dendrimers contain various antigens on their surface that bind to a variety of different antibodies. Linhardt hopes to develop a number of such synthetic vaccines, eventually testing them in humans.
Linhardt, 28, and his wife, Dawn, will spend the year in Europe. Then, following his post-doctorate work, he will seek a position with a U.S. university. He wants to start his own lab to continue his research in biomedical engineering, and looks forward as well to teaching and mentoring students.
"I've always felt that one of the beautiful things about life is that it's not predestined, but is a dynamic path that's constantly being redefined by our exposure to new experiences," says Linhardt; "so I'm confident that my life will be enriched by my research experience in the Netherlands."
Takahashi's research interest concerns the origin of the universe. He will pursue a Master of Philosophy degree in astrophysics at Cambridge University in England. He chose Cambridge, he says, because of its "multicultural atmosphere and its strength in the observation of cosmic microwave background, the relic radiation from the Big Bang." Upon his return from England, Takahashi will pursue his PhD at the University of California, Berkeley. Meanwhile he continues working on a proposal to NASA to establish an international observatory on the Moon, and remains hopeful that he will one day fulfill his lifelong ambition to be an astronaut.
"The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that changes are what make life fulfilling," he says. "So I'll always be proactive about trying new things. And I try to make my decisions with the idea of making my life and the lives of others more dynamic."
The Fulbright award is the U.S. government's premier scholarship program. It was established by Congress in 1946 to foster mutual understanding among nations through educational and cultural exchanges. Linhardt's Fulbright is sponsored by the Netherland-America Foundation, which seeks to promote relations between the U.S. and the Netherlands. Fulbright awards enable U.S. students and artists to benefit from unique resources in every corner of the world.