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Luncheon celebrates the Samuel C. Fleming Family Graduate Fellowships

Friday, November 4, 2016

Photos by Patrick Shanahan

Cornell Engineering leaders, faculty and students gathered for a luncheon in Olin Hall on Thursday, Oct. 27, to formally dedicate the Samuel C. Fleming Family Graduate Fellowships.

The luncheon celebrated the generosity of Trustee Emeritus and Presidential Councillor Samuel Fleming ’62 and his wife, Nancy, who committed $5 million in 2015 to create the fellowships in the Robert Frederick Smith School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

The Fleming Fellowships are awarded to at least three graduate students each academic year and provide opportunities not only for the young scholars, but for the school and Cornell Engineering as a whole. “This allows us to attract the very best students to the college,” remarked Lance Collins, the Joseph Silbert Dean of Engineering.

While thanking the Flemings, Collins noted Sam Fleming’s longtime support for the university, and added that he admires his “devotion to chemical engineering and efforts to see that the school continues to grow.” As a member of Collins’ small group of advisors helping to guide the vision for the college, Fleming has used his professional insights to advance the Smith School so that it evolves as the science of chemical engineering does.

One of Fleming’s hallmarks as the former CEO of the research and consulting company Decision Resources was to expand it to encompass not only chemical engineering, but biomolecular engineering as well. Fleming had stressed the growing value of biomolecular engineering to Cornell Engineering leaders and in 2002, what was then the School of Chemical Engineering added “Biomolecular” to its name. Today, half of the school’s labs and half of its approximately 200 graduate students and post-docs are pursuing biomolecular themes in their research.

“Sam was ahead of his time, and that’s why I’m so privileged to have him in my inner circle, helping to steer the college forward,” said Collins.

Also attending the luncheon were most of the first two cohorts of Fleming Fellows. It was a chance for the beneficiaries to personally thank the Flemings and to share the research opportunities that the fellowships have allowed them to pursue.

Morgan Baltz, a 2015-16 Fleming Fellow working in the DeLisa Lab, told the Flemings she is engineering biological tools for targeted protein degradation in mammalian cells using a protein silencing tool called “ubiquibodies.” Mengrou Shan, a 2015-16 Fleming Fellow in the Stroock Lab, detailed her study of ecological outcomes of tumor growth under different scenarios in cancer metabolism, specifically the coupling of population dynamics and transport processes.

Speaking to Fleming, Abe Stroock, the William C. Hooey Director of the Smith School, said: “In just two short years, these pathfinders have developed what we believe would be a dream portfolio of projects for the type of clients you guided for years at Decision Resources.”

He added that he sees several parallels between the eight young fellows and Sam Fleming himself, including the way the fellows have used their academic freedom to be leaders and mentors.

“In the lab, they have cultivated skills and passion in younger students: undergrads, high schoolers, and even middle schoolers,” said Stroock. “Outside the lab… they run professional development activities, inviting alumni and famous scientists for visits to our department and sponsoring travel grants for other graduate students.”

The luncheon concluded with Collins and Stroock presenting the Flemings with a special certificate and – just in time for the fast-approaching winter – Cornell Engineering jackets.

“Sam and Nancy, your generosity has created trailblazers who are defining the frontiers of biomolecular engineering,” exclaimed Stroock. “They are our next Bob Langers, Ann Lees, George Georgiouses, Todd Zions, and, perhaps even, Sam Flemings.”

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