Ashley Allen capped an action-packed fifth year in the Bioengineering (BioE) Ph.D. program by winning the Christopher Ruffin BioE Graduate Leadership Award, highlighting the second annual BioE Day at the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience.
The award, established last year to honor the memory of Ruffin, former BioE academic advisor who died in 2013, recognizes a current graduate student for superior contributions to the program, a student whose influence, ideals and activities create a lasting and positive impression, raising the standard of excellence for future students. Allen follows in the footsteps of Patricia Pacheco, who won the first Ruffin Award in 2014.
“Ashley is an amazing young woman with an incredibly positive nature and boundless energy. She’s a true champion for the BioE program, which reflects Chris’s spirit,” says Laura Paige, who has followed Ruffin as academic advisor for BioE. “And she’s been very supportive of me since I stepped into this role.”
In what must now be considered a tradition, BioE Day began in the Petit Institute atrium with student research presentations and the awards ceremony, and ended outdoors in the commons area, where students, staff and professors tossed a Frisbee, played corn hole, and threw water balloons at each other while enjoying refreshments.
The Ruffin Award remains the unifying theme for BioE Day, but several other students and a faculty member also were recognized: Erin Hannen, a student in the lab of Susan Thomas, won the Best Poster Award. Jennifer Lei, from Johnna Temenoff’s lab, took the prize for Rapid Fire Presentation. He Zheng, from Garrett Stanley’s lab, presented her research from a Best Paper Award that was announced at BioE Recruitment Day earlier in the semester. And Brandon Dixon accepted his award for Best Faculty Advisor (also announced originally during BioE Recruitment Day).
Allen, who works in the lab of Petit Institute Executive Director Bob Guldberg, was the ideal candidate for the Ruffin Award, according to her fellow BioE students, 18 of which signed a letter of nomination on her behalf. They point out her implicit and explicit leadership positions through the years, including her extensive work within the Bioengineering Graduate Association (BGA – she was president in 2011). They wrote of her volunteer work at recruitment events, coming up with the idea for BioE Day, and other community-building events.
She also served as education and outreach chair for the Bioengineering and Bioscience Unified Graduates (BBUGS), spreading her interest in science to the next generation of students. And earlier this school year, Allen spent two weeks in Israel doing research as part of her Nerem International Travel Award, working the lab of Zulma Gazit, who may sum up this year’s Ruffin Award best when she says of Allen, “she directs as high a degree of energy, kindness, and enthusiasm toward learning and engaging with people as she does towards research.”
Or, as Allen’s friends in BioE conclude in their letter, “The BioE program and the role of BGA have seen significant growth over the past few years, which we strongly believe would have been impossible without Ashley’s passionate involvement and leadership.”
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience