Diekman Receives Fulbright Scholarship in Ireland

DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke University student Brian Diekman has been selected to receive a 2005 Fulbright Scholarship from the Irish Fulbright Commission. The award will provide Diekman support for up to 12 months of research and coursework at the National University of Ireland in Galway.

Diekman, from West Lafayette, Ind., is majoring in biomedical engineering with a minor in religion, and will graduate next month.

The Irish Fulbright Commission provides 12 postgraduate Fulbright Awards for U.S. citizens to study, research or lecture in Ireland each year.

Diekman will spend a year continuing tissue engineering research he started as an undergraduate research fellow at Duke's Pratt School of Engineering. He worked under the guidance of professor Farshid Guilak, whose laboratory focuses on developing functional tissue replacements for those who suffer from osteoarthritis. Guilak has demonstrated that stem cells taken from fat tissue can be encouraged to become chondrocytes -- the cells that make up cartilage. Diekman worked to optimize cell culture conditions for growing cartilage cells.

"Brian's passion and curiosity for research were apparent even before he started working in the lab," Guilak said. "The more he worked on this project, the more questions we came up with, which is exactly how a research project should go. I think Brian's numerous successes are due to the fact that he treats every challenge with such enthusiasm."

In Ireland, Diekman plans to work with researchers at the Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI) to extend his cartilage tissue engineering experience by incorporating gene therapy. "I'm hopeful that my lab experience at Duke will quickly get me going at REMEDI," Diekman said.

"I don't know what I'm more excited about -- the research or the chance to deeply immerse myself in the culture," said Diekman, who visited Ireland once before on a family vacation.

While at Duke, Diekman spent a significant amount of time doing community service. He served as a Young Life leader and varsity basketball assistant at the North Carolina School of Science and Math in Durham. As a member of the Kappa Alpha fraternity, he was involved in campus Bible study, community service and intramural sports. He is also a member of the Biomedical Engineering Society.

After graduating from Duke and spending his year in Ireland, Diekman plans to pursue a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering. "I want to teach as a professor and I love that I will hopefully be able to do that and also continue to do challenging research," he said.