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Interview with Boren and Whitaker Fellow in South Korea, Amanda Pentecost

November 23, 2016

Interview with Current Boren and Whitaker Fellow, Amanda Pentecost!

With the Whitaker Program coming to an end this year, we checked in with 2016-17 Whitaker Fellow, Amanda Pentecost, as she completes her fellowship in Seoul, South Korea. Along with the Whitaker Fellowship, Amanda also received the Boren Awards to conduct research with Dr. Kwangmeyung Kim at the Center for Theragnosis, housed in the Biomedical Research Institute at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) in Seoul, South Korea.

AmandaPentecostAmanda Pentecost (BS Materials Science & Engineering '13) is a dual PhD candidate in Materials Science & Engineering and MS student in Biomedical Engineering. Amanda’s dissertation research focuses on using theragnostic diamond nanoparticles to increase the effectiveness of a common anti-inflammatory drug, dexamethasone, in preventing fibrous capsule formation and isolation of an implanted biomaterial.


Drexel Fellowships Office (DFO): What motivated you to apply for Whitaker?

Amanda Pentecost (AP): Both of my PhD advisors, Dr. Yury Gogotsi (MSE, Drexel Nanomaterials Group) and Dr. Kara Spiller (BMES, Biomaterials and Regenerative Medicine Lab), are huge proponents of international collaborations, and really encourage students to pursue those experiences. In fact, Dr. Gogotsi even set up my third co-op, which allowed me to participate in Drexel's partnership with the Shanghai Advanced Research Institute in Shanghai, China. After having such an incredible experience there, I decided I wanted to go abroad again. Although I also applied both Fulbright and Boren fellowships, I was particularly motivated to apply for a Whitaker fellowship because I had several close friends who had received the award. They talked enthusiastically about their experiences, both in their abroad institutions and as members of the Whitaker community.

DFO: What are you currently working on in South Korea?

AP: I am currently working on the final aim of my PhD in which I am testing the efficacy of the nanoparticle-based drug delivery system that I designed in treating rheumatoid arthritis and other chronic inflammatory conditions. Since common anti-inflammatory drugs have side effects, such as immunosuppression, I aim to increase targeting of the drug to inflammatory cells by using nanoparticles. The Center for Theragnosis at the Korea Institute of Science &l Technology is well-known for their experience in animal studies and high-resolution live imaging techniques, which allow for real-time tracking of nanoparticles in mice.

DFO: How has the Whitaker program influenced your career path?

AP: Ever since my amazing co-op experience in Shanghai, I knew I wanted to pursue a career that combines interdisciplinary research and international engagement. Becoming a Whitaker fellow in Seoul has been instrumental in solidifying this desire, and has opened my eyes to the possibility of pursuing other international experiences post-graduation. In fact, I have already begun meeting with Ben in the Fellowships Office to discuss post-doctoral fellowship opportunities in Germany, which is where I hope my next adventure will be! In pursuing these international experiences, I hope to broaden my knowledge, not only of scientific techniques and analyses, but also of multiculturalism.

DFO: What did you learn from the application process?

AP: Like the NSF GRFP application process, the Whitaker application process provides excellent grant writing practice. During the process, I spent a lot of time organizing my thoughts and deciding how to best present them in a clear and effective way, such that laypeople could also understand the importance of my past and proposed research projects. Also, it challenged me to seriously reflect on my personal motivations and post-graduation plans. Often, this can be extremely overwhelming. In fact, to lessen the pressure on myself, I often joke that I don't know what to be when I grow up! However, writing personal statements has at least allowed me to identify my key passions, which I believe will lead me towards an appropriate career, be in it academia or industry.

DFO: Do you have any advice for other Drexel students to help them on their career path?

‚ÄčAP: One of the biggest pieces of advice I can give for anyone is to challenge yourself to go outside of your comfort zone. I had never lived abroad before I took the plunge and moved to Shanghai for 6 months. Not only was it an extremely rewarding experience, but it also opened up a world of other possibilities for me. If you asked me several years ago if I thought I would ever be speaking intermediate Korean and living in Korea for a year, I would've thought you were out of your mind. (I used to be scared of even taking the subway.) It's really important to take a chance and try different things, especially the things that seem the most difficult, because they can also be the most rewarding. While challenging yourself to live abroad is one example, this can also be extended to nearly any aspect of life - challenge yourself to apply for the scholarship/fellowship, even if you don't think you'll get it, to go skiing if you haven't before, or even to eat chicken feet (they're delicious!). 

About the Whitaker International Program
The Whitaker International Program sends U.S. biomedical engineering (or bioengineering) graduate students and PhDs overseas to undertake a self-designed project that will enhance their careers within the field. Along with supporting grant projects in an academic setting, the Whitaker International Program encourages grantees to engage in policy work and propose projects in an industry setting.

The Whitaker International program is closing as of December 2018. 2017 will be the last competition cycle. The Fellow and Scholar applications are due Tuesday, January 24 at 5:00pm.

Applications for the 2017 cycle are now open. To apply for Whitaker at Drexel University, check out our Whitaker International Program page or email

About the Boren Award for International Study
The Boren Awards, an initiative of the National Security Education Program (NSEP), fund undergraduate and graduate US citizens to study less commonly taught languages in world regions that are critical to U.S. strategic security interests and under-represented in study abroad.

The Boren Awards promote long term cultural and linguistic immersion in countries in Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America, and the Middle East. In exchange for funding, Boren awardees commit to working in the federal government for at least one year after graduation.

Applications for the 2017 Boren wards are now open. To apply for Boren at Drexel University, you must submit an application for campus review by January 5. To learn more, check out our Boren International Awards page or email