Nicole DelRosso Wins Fulbright for Biophysics Research
Nicole DelRosso came to Hampshire College to study sculpture. Six years later, she won a Fulbright and set her sights on building a sculpture of science: a minuscule, nanoscale motor she hopes will work inside cells to treat diseases and monitor health.
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.
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 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 has been published by 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.
Ultimately, DelRosso decided to decline her Fulbright and instead to lead biophysics research at the University of California, San Francisco. DelRosso plans eventually to pursue a PhD in biophysics.
[Story revised January, 2018]