URBANA, Ill. – Jamison Watson, doctoral student in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering (ABE) at the University of Illinois, received a Schmidt Science Fellowship. He is one of 28 awardees in the 2021 cohort of fellows, representing 13 nationalities and multiple research fields.
Watson works in the research lab of Yuanhui Zhang, professor of agricultural and biological engineering in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) and The Grainger College of Engineering. Watson’s doctoral research focuses on turning biomass – such as animal manure, food waste and algae – into fuel by means of hydrothermal liquefaction and hydrotreating.
The Schmidt Science Fellows program is an initiative of Schmidt Futures in partnership with the Rhodes Trust. Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and his wife, Wendy, launched the program in 2017 with a mission to accelerate discovery through interdisciplinary science.
Schmidt Science Fellows receive a $100,000 stipend per year for up to two years to undertake full-time postdoctoral study. The funding provides both training for the fellows and the research they undertake.
“For the Schmidt fellowship, I plan to conduct research using microbial electrolysis cells to convert toxic compounds in wastewater into more benign substances. The goal is to not only produce fuel from waste but also generate other valuable products such as hydrogen gas and drinking water,” Watson says.
“As a doctoral student I've had the opportunity to experience a lot of different fields and go through different pathways. My department and my advisor allowed me the flexibility and freedom to explore my interests. The U of I has really given me a springboard to jump-start my development.”
Schmidt fellows undertake pivotal research at the postdoctoral stage, building on their doctoral work but expanding into a different area to extend their knowledge base. Upon graduation from the U of I this fall Watson plans to join either Princeton University or Massachusetts Institute of Technology for his fellowship.
“Jamison is one of our best, if not the best, doctoral students, and we could not be prouder,” says Ronaldo Maghirang, head of the ABE department. “Being selected for the Schmidt Fellowship is a testament to his many outstanding accomplishments as an early-career scientist.”
The growing community of Schmidt Science Fellows now numbers more than 80 emerging interdisciplinary science leaders worldwide. Members of previous cohorts are pursuing roles in universities, start-up companies, not-for-profits, and national research institutes and are part of a lifelong fellowship community.
Read more at the 2021 Schmidt Science Fellows website.