Biomedical Engineering grad wins major scholarship
By Ashlee Larrison
GCU News Bureau
It felt like just another weekday as Biomedical Engineering student Jeffrey Richards inched closer to his undergraduate Commencement ceremony and completed his biochemistry take-home quiz.
He soon would find out it was anything but normal.
From across the house he was interrupted by the sound of his girlfriend and fellow 2021 graduate, Madison Strong, shouting joyfully.
“Jeffrey, you won!” she exclaimed.
Richards’ 2021 Alpha Chi National Convention presentation, titled “Toward Continuous Insulin Biosensing for Diabetic Patients,” had just been announced, via Zoom conference, as the winner of the Joseph E. and Bessie Mae Pryor Prize in Chemistry. The prize came with a scholarship that Richards can use for graduate school.
“I came over and I thought her and another group of GCU students had won. I was just like, ‘Oh, congratulations,’ and she was like, ‘No, you won,’” he said. “I was just flabbergasted.”
The convention invites members from more than 300 chapters to give presentations on a multitude of topics. Richards’ presentation was based on his grant-funded research to develop a biosensor with the ability to sense insulin in the blood of diabetic patients.
At the time, Richards had felt good about his presentation, but he had no idea where he would rank among his fellow peers in the chemistry category, especially after feeling equally impressed with their submissions.
According to Honors College Associate Dean Dr. Breanna Naegeli, making it into the convention is an achievement in and of itself, so Richards’ success at the conference is no small feat.
“We are exceptionally proud of Jeffrey and his diligent work and commitment to this research over the last several years,” she said. “It is abundantly rewarding to see the endless hours and hard work acknowledged and rewarded.
“We also want to acknowledge and thank Dr. (Jeff) LaBelle, Dr. (Jon) Valla and the College of Science, Engineering and Technology for supporting this research and encouraging Jeffrey to share this work. This is a testament to the collaborative community of GCU.”
It was the first academic competition that Richards had won, and it made the last few days of his program that much more memorable.
“It was a nice way to end my undergraduate career,” he said.
So what’s next for Richards?
The recent graduate looks to take a gap year before putting his newly awarded scholarship to use. From there, he plans to use the scholarship to apply for medical school in hopes of completing an M.D./Ph.D. in Biomedical Imaging.
As a student who had never participated in an Alpha Chi convention before this year’s, Richards believes his story is a testament to what is possible.
“Don’t be intimidated,” he said. “If you have something cool that you’re working on, an idea or anything, just go with it. You definitely don’t know where it’s going to take you because I definitely didn’t.”
The most valuable reward Richards got from the experience, he said, wasn’t the title of winner. It was the lessons he learned along the way.
“Even if you don’t win, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “I didn’t think I was going to win, and I grew as a person in my presentation skills and in my ability to reach a broader audience, and that’s really the point.”
Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected].
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