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Spartan Receives Gilliam Fellowship

Chemistry Major Receives Gilliam Fellowship

Inspired by a professor, Brian Castellano changed majors from nutrition to chemistry, and will soon begin a doctoral program (Christina Olivas photo).

In recognition of his academic interests and service, chemistry major Brian Castellano has received a 2013 Gilliam Fellowship for Advanced Study.

The honor provides $46,500 annually for four years from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which seeks to improve the diversity of college and university faculty members by supporting students from groups traditionally underrepresented in the sciences.

“That’s one of the reasons I am interested in science: There is an unlimited amount to learn and discover, and through mentoring, I am able to help others gain a similar passion,” said Castellano, who will enter a doctoral program this fall.

Castellano arrived at SJSU in spring 2009 planning to pursue a degree in nutrition. Inspired by an enthusiastic chemistry professor and his own interest in cell research, Castellano changed his major to chemistry.

So Castellano joined Associate Professor Daryl Eggers’ research lab, where he started work on the effects of water on binding systems. Castellano currently investigates the role of water thermodynamics on aqueous binding equilibria.

“Brian is one of my strongest students ever,” Eggers said. “When I met him, I knew almost immediately he understood very subtle ideas about our research that would be very difficult for other students, a clear sign to me that he would succeed in PhD programs.”

At SJSU, Castellano has also participated in the HHMI-SCRIBE Program and the National Institute of Health’s Minority Access to Research Careers Program, both of which provided him with financial support so he could flourish academically.

Academic Mentors

“One of the rewarding aspects of being a professor is seeing your students go and do these wonderful things,” Eggers said, adding he enjoys “seeing students grow and be successful after leaving San Jose State.”

Mentoring has also been a major part of Castellano’s experience. He has helped fellow students and is a volunteer organic chemistry workshop facilitator.

Castellano is now looking forward to earning a doctorate degree in biological and biomedical sciences. He has been accepted to doctoral programs at the University of California-Berkeley, Johns Hopkins University, Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania.