Wang among Emory seniors selected for National Science Foundation fellowships


Charlotte Wang

The National Science Foundation has awarded coveted Graduate Research Fellowships to several Emory students and recent graduates, including Emory College senior Charlotte Wang 19Ox 21C.

The NSF recently selected three seniors in Emory College of Arts and Sciences, 12 recent Emory College alumni and nine PhD students in Emory’s Laney Graduate School to receive these prestigious research fellowships.

The nation’s oldest graduate fellowship of its kind, the NSF award comes with a three-year annual stipend of $34,000, a $12,000 stipend to fellows’ graduate institutions and access to programs for professional development and international research. The highly competitive award was offered to 2,074 students this year, out of more than 20,000 applicants.

Learn more about the undergraduate recipients:

Charlotte Wang

Wang’s research journey began as a standout in her introductory course with Sarah Fankhauser, an assistant professor of biology at Oxford College. 

"I am forever grateful for Dr. Fankhauser's support and trust in me," Wang says. "She believed in me at times when I have doubted myself, she challenged me and encouraged me to be a scientist, to be a better member of an inclusive and supportive community." 

Fankhauser recruited Wang, who had no experience with research, to join her in studying how farming techniques affected the soil microbiome at the Oxford Organic Farm. The project expanded to include other students over time, resulting in a 2020 paper published in the journal PLOS ONE.

“She took such initiative, it was like having a first-year or second-year grad student on my team,” Fankhauser says. “I could not be more proud of her development as a scientist.”

Wang’s development continued with a chance conference dinner with immunologists. The interaction made her think of the immune-boosting herbal soups from traditional Chinese medicine she grew up with as a child and inspired her to pursue a research position in the field.

Through the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates program, Wang landed a summer position in advanced targeted gene editing at the University of California San Francisco after graduating from Oxford in 2019. She spent the summer learning techniques to use CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technologies to screen for immunodeficiencies.

When she moved to the Atlanta campus, Wang sought out more immunology work. She conducted surveillance work on a subtype of T cells for a semester in Jacob Kohlmeier’s lab in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology in Emory School of Medicine.

With the pandemic keeping her from lab work, she began working on a computational project that became an honors thesis under the guidance of Rustom Antia, the Samuel C. Dobbs Professor of biology. Her project modeling the auto-reactivity of T cells confirmed her passion for understanding how the immune system works or doesn’t.

Wang will pursue her PhD in biomedical sciences at UCSF in the fall.

“I never imagined myself in a scientific field until my mentors brought me in and lifted me up,” Wang says. “Oxford and Emory gave me the freedom to think, to let me develop my identity as a researcher. It feels very powerful to belong to that community.”

View full article about Emory NSF recipients

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