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Senior earns NIH Oxford Cambridge Scholarship

Thursday, May 05, 2016

LAWRENCE — Jessica van Loben Sels’ latest scholarship will allow the University of Kansas senior to continue her research at the University of Cambridge and at the National Institutes of Health, studying serious, disease-causing viruses.

Van Loben Sels, from Albuquerque, New Mexico, is a recipient of an Oxford Cambridge Scholarship from the National Institutes of Health. The scholarship pays for graduate work — including tuition, fees and a stipend — at Oxford University or Cambridge University in the United Kingdom and at the NIH in Bethesda, Maryland.

She is one of about 16 students across the country to receive the award and the first KU student to receive the scholarship since 2009. The scholarship seeks to train a new generation of top biomedical researchers to investigate human diseases and develop new treatments and cures.

“Having been one of Jessica’s advisers for the past two years, I know aptitude and hard work make her a natural fit for this scholarship,” said Anne Wallen, assistant director of national scholarships and fellowships for the KU Honors Program. “This is a great honor for KU and for an outstanding student who has demonstrated impressive success in her classes and in her research.”

Van Loben Sels has also earned a Goldwater and an Astronaut scholarship, which provided funds for her undergraduate study and research.

At Cambridge, she intends to work with Ian Goodfellow, a virologist in the Department of Pathology, where she intends to earn her doctorate. As part of her work, she intends to travel to Uganda in order to study severe norovirus infections endemic to that region of the world. At the NIH, she will work with Kim Green, chief of the caliciviruses section of the Laboratory of Infectious Diseases at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. There, she will work on studying how this virus persists in patients with compromised immune systems.

During her undergraduate KU career, van Loben Sels worked in the lab of David Davido, associate professor of molecular biosciences, where she researched herpes simplex virus type I. She also is a member of the University Honors Program and the 2014 University Scholars Program.

She has also been a participant in the Initiative for Maximizing Student Development through the Office for Diversity in Science Training and the Kansas Idea Network of Biomedical Research Excellence.

After earning her doctorate, she plans to become a professor.

“I’d like to stay in academic life,” she said. “In addition to being able to continue working in research, I also enjoy teaching. I have had experience tutoring and instructing undergraduates as a teaching assistant, and I've found it very rewarding to help students understand biology.”

Van Loben Sels is a graduate of St. Pius X High School and is the daughter of James and Monique van Loben Sels of Albuquerque.