Nicole DelRosso Cole Science Lab

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Nicole DelRosso Wins Fulbright for Biophysics Research in Germany

DelRosso published her undergraduate research in two peer-reviewed science journals and presented at two global science conferences

Nicole DelRosso came to Hampshire College to study sculpture. Six years later, she has won a Fulbright to build a sculpture of science: a minuscule, nanoscale motor she hopes will work inside cells to treat diseases and monitor health.

Nicole DelRosso Krisna Van Dyke

DelRosso’s transition from art to applied science began in her first year at Hampshire when she was inspired by a course on the brain and cognition taught by Professor Joanna Morris. Four years and many science and math courses later, DelRosso led her own Division III project, conducting highly complex scientific research using DNA computing to create a programmable biological entity, aka synthetic DNA.

In her Fulbright application, DelRosso 12F explained that her interest in sculpture morphed through her undergraduate studies into a desire to design nanoscale objects mimicking the behavior of molecules and cellular components. “Designing at this scale allows me to experiment with machines subject to the same forces that govern cellular life,” she wrote. “Constrained by the laws of physics and biology, the structures I create are no longer just beautiful forms. They are functional art and, with them, I can shed light on the workings of the living world.”

In her final year at Hampshire, DelRosso leveraged the Five College Consortium to carry out her senior-thesis research, building synthetic DNA in Professor Nathan Derr’s lab at neighboring Smith College. Her research was funded in part by eight student research grants awarded by Hampshire. Serving on DelRosso’s faculty committee for her Division III were Professor Derr (chair), Hampshire Professor of Math Sarah Hews, and Professor of Computer Science Lee Spector. Read DelRosso Div III Profile.

DelRosso published her undergraduate research in two international, peer-reviewed journals, Current Opinion in Biotechnology, and Angewandte Chemie International Edition. In 2016, she was the only undergraduate invited to present her thesis research at two international science conferences: the DNA22 Molecular Computing International Conference, in Munich; and 
the Foundations of Nanoscience Conference, in Utah.

For her Fulbright, she will lead original research at the Technical University of Munich, in the laboratory of Professor Dr. Hendrik Dietz, chair of experimental biophysics there.

Dr. Dietz’s lab holds undeniable appeal for someone educated at Hampshire: “My interdisciplinary training can finally be concentrated on a specific research objective without compromising my commitment to design,” DelRosso wrote.

She plans to take courses in biophysics, physics 
, and advanced German, attend symposia, and participate in the Munich Maker Lab to engage in citizen science.

DelRosso says she’s hoping the nanoscale motor she designs will help monitor and control the growth and death of cells and also treat diseased cells. She envisions a programmable machine that can be used to transport cell components, biosensors, and drugs to targeted locations in the eukaryotic cell.

After completing her Fulbright, DelRosso plans to pursue a PhD in biophysics. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program, the flagship international educational exchange sponsored by the federal government, is designed to build relations across national boundaries and to help solve global challenges.

Nicole DelRosso
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