Notre Dame graduate students awarded fellowships for cross-disciplinary biomedical research

Author: Arnie Phifer



Two University of Notre Dame graduate students, Enrico Speri and Yide Zhang, have been awarded the 2017 Berry Family Foundation Graduate Fellowships in Advanced Diagnostics & Therapeutics to support their exceptional  and wide-ranging research programs—which touch on aspects of biology, chemistry, and engineering—over the next academic year.


Speri, a chemistry and biochemistry PhD student working in the labs of Shahriar Mobashery and Mayland Chang, is trying to tackle one of the largest global health threats today: bacterial resistance to antibiotics. In particular, he is working on two dangerous bacteria strains, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Clostridium difficile, that infect over 330,000 people each year in the U.S. alone.


“While I was working on two families of compounds that are able to re-sensitize bacteria to antibiotics, I synthesized a series of molecules that exhibited antibacterial properties of their own, including the ability to prevent growth of both MRSA and C. difficile,” explains Speri. “This is an exciting development, as this class did not have any antibacterial activity attributed to it previously.”


“Molecular biology, biochemistry, and microbiology all play key roles in my research.”


Zhang, an electrical engineering PhD student working with Scott Howard, is developing a new type of fluorescence microscope that could advance the work of other researchers and medical personnel in a variety of fields.


“Fluorescence microscopes are great tools, but physics limits how fast, how small, and how deep of a thing we can see with them,” Zhang says. “What we are doing in this project is building a new type of fluorescence microscope that not only sees fast, small, and deep features inside of cells, but also inside of cells in living tissue—unlike other microscope techniques.”


“A next step is to make this experimental imaging platform available to collaborators, so they can use the system to advance their own basic biological and medical research.”


The Berry Family Foundation Graduate Fellowships awarded are annually by Notre Dame’s Advanced Diagnostics & Therapeutics (AD&T) initiative.


“Enrico and Yide are terrific young scientists and engineers whose work could have great impact in helping others,” says Paul Bohn, AD&T’s director. “Moreover, like previous Berry Fellows, we anticipate that they will go on making exciting discoveries in their future careers.”


“This is valuable work, and we’re grateful for the Berry Family Foundation for their support of next-generation science.”


Contact: Paul Bohn, (574) 631-1849,


The University of Notre Dame is a private research and teaching university inspired by its Catholic mission. Notre Dame faculty, students, and staff engage in research, scholarship, education, and creative endeavor in order to advance human understanding and make a difference in the world.



Originally published by Arnie Phifer at on June 30, 2017.