Karoline Eckhart Wins Kwolek Fellowship
By Ben Panko
Chemistry Ph.D. candidate Karoline Eckhart has been named a co-recipient of the 2021 Kwolek Fellowship in Chemistry. The fellowship is funded by a bequest from Carnegie Mellon University alumna Stephanie Kwolek, best known as the inventor of the synthetic fiber Kevlar. It provides up to $50,000 to women Ph.D. candidates who "have shown significant advances in their research."
Eckhart's research is focused on developing biomaterials based on nanocarbons, peptides and polysaccharides in the lab of Associate Professor of Chemistry Stefanie Sydlik. These materials can be used to affect mammalian and bacterial cell behavior, she noted.
"Our cell-instructive biomaterials have potential to accelerate wound healing by serving as a regenerative tissue scaffold, preventing biofilm formation, or by preventing a bacterial infection," Eckhart said.
In addition to her research work, Eckhart has taken an active leadership role in her lab, often mentoring multiple undergraduate students at a time, Sydlik said.
"Undergraduate mentoring is important to me because it provides an opportunity for students to learn chemistry by doing it in a real research setting," Eckhart said. "Hands-on research experience is the best way to learn how to be a chemist, and it’s what sparked my passion for chemistry — I love providing that for younger chemists." She noted that the Kwolek Fellowship will help support her in continuing this vital work as she finishes her last year of research at Carnegie Mellon.
Outside of her work in the lab, Eckhart said she enjoys cooking, sewing, going to concerts and being outside in nature.
"Karoline is exceptional in every aspect of her graduate studies," Sydlik concluded.