Peter Phan, a 22-year-old senior at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith, has been awarded the Doctoral Academy Fellowship at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. Phan, originally from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, will join Dr. T.K.S. Kumar, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, to conduct a joint project on snake venom proteins. The fellowship also includes a stipend of $12,000 per year for four years as well as a graduate assistantship.
Phan was recommended for the fellowship by Dr. Ragupathy Kannan, professor of biological sciences in the UAFS College of Science, Engineering, Technology and Mathematics (STEM).
“Getting the Doctoral Academy Fellowship is a dream come true for me,” said Phan. “Dr. Kannan, along with many other staff and faculty members within the College of STEM, have always pushed me to better myself in terms of research activities, qualities, and academic achievements. I am glad that being the Fellowship recipient reflects these mentorships and hard work.”
Phan’s research on snake venom proteins started with a conversation between Drs. Kannan and Kumar, both of whom had ambitions to conduct studies on the subject. The two decided that before the study could begin, a comprehensive review of the literature on the biochemistry of snake proteins needed to be conducted. Kannan chose Phan for the project, which consisted of scouring the literature, compiling an extensive annotated bibliography, and evaluating and determining the main ideas in each of the hundreds of papers he read.
“The 143-page report he compiled at the end of the six-month project was exhaustive,” Kannan said. “But what made this work even more remarkable is the fact that Peter also added, without being asked to, over 100 questions that we can address in a future graduate study on venom proteins.”
Kannan also noted Phan’s dedicated work ethic, sharp mind, and impressive test scores, as reasons for recommending him for the Doctoral Academy Fellowship.
In addition to achieving his goal of participating in graduate-level research in Kumar’s lab, Phan says he is also appreciative of the financial aspect of the award.
“I won’t have to worry about finances too much during the course of study, and I can focus 100 percent on the research project at hand,” he said.
Phan intends to graduate from UAFS in August of this year with a Bachelor of Science in chemistry-biochemistry. Upon completion of his post-graduate fellowship, he aspires to pursue a career in the biochemical scientific research field.