Ahmad Omar, a chemical engineering graduate student, has been selected as a 2019 Schmidt Science Fellow. The fellowship, created by former Google chairman Eric Schmidt and his wife, Wendy Schmidt, provides stipends to researchers who "tackle the world's most significant problems," in areas such as health, environment, clean energy, computer science, and smart materials, according to a statement issued by the organization.
Omar works in the group of Zhen-Gang Wang, Caltech's Dick and Barbara Dickinson Professor of Chemical Engineering, where he conducts research into hydrogels, jelly-like polymers that can absorb large amounts of water while maintaining their structural integrity. Hydrogels have applications in many fields, including drug delivery and wound healing. Omar's research focuses on using theoretical and computational tools to understand the molecular origins of many of the appealing mechanical properties of hydrogels.
"I've always been interested in research that has potential applications for human health and disease while also being technically rigorous and challenging," Omar says. "I've been pretty fortunate while I've been here at Caltech to have the opportunity to work on such problems."
Omar said he was honored to find out he had been nominated for the fellowship by Wang, who serves as Omar's academic adviser.
"I have a deep admiration for Zhen-Gang," Omar says. "That he thought highly enough of me to nominate me was very humbling."
Omar says he hopes to pursue postdoctoral studies at UC Berkeley and that the flexibility provided by the fellowship he is receiving will give him the "autonomy to keep pursuing curiosity-driven research."
Omar is one of 20 researchers who were inducted into the 2019 class of Schmidt Fellows. For more information about the program, visit the organization's website.