Will Hancock-Cerutti Earns Fulbright Scholarship

Originally posted: April 26, 2012

Will Hancock-Cerutti ’12, a chemistry major at Franklin & Marshall College, has received a prestigious Fulbright Full-Grant Scholarship for a year of translational research in Paris.

Hancock-Cerutti will use the award to work with John Chapman, president of the European Atherosclerosis Society, building upon research the student performed at the University of Pennsylvania during the summers of 2010 and 2011. Hancock-Cerutti will also pursue a master’s degree in molecular and cellular biology at the Université Pierre et Marie Curie, which is affiliated with Chapman’s lab.

“This scholarship is really a testament to all the support I’ve had at F&M,” said Hancock-Cerutti, a native of Princeton, N.J. “I feel lucky that so many people supported me and that my project came together. I’m excited to be in Paris learning the language and culture, and excited about the project I’m working on.”

Fulbright Full-Grant Scholarships are part of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, which offers fellowships to college seniors, graduate students, young professionals and artists to study, conduct research or teach overseas for one academic year. The full-grant awards are more rare than Fulbright English Teaching Assistantships (ETAs), which support recent college graduates in teaching positions overseas. Two F&M graduates received Fulbright ETAs in 2011.

In Chapman’s lab, Hancock-Cerutti will study the relationship between cholesterol kinetics and heart disease, specifically the metabolism of high-density lipoprotein (HDL, commonly known as “good cholesterol”) and its breakdown in the human body. He will analyze HDL samples from the lab of Daniel Rader, M.D., professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, with whom Hancock-Cerutti worked the past two summers after receiving a Clinical Translational Science Award from the University of Pennsylvania.

“It’s nice to be able to mix clinical and basic science,” Hancock-Cerutti said. “Translational research brings bench science to the bedside through direct application. You can see how results can help patients in the future.”

The research on cholesterol kinetics has the potential to provide insight into the underlying factors of heart disease, Hancock-Cerutti said. He hopes the project deepens the ongoing collaboration between two of the preeminent research groups in the world that study hardening of the arteries, known as atherosclerosis—groups led by Chapman and Rader.

Hancock-Cerutti applied for the Fulbright Scholarship with strong encouragement from Professor Monica Cable, F&M’s director of postgraduate fellowships.

“France is one of the most competitive Fulbright programs, so this award says a lot about Will’s abilities,” Professor Cable said. “Will expressed himself beautifully in his project proposal. Not all people on the Fulbright selection committee are necessarily scientists, and he used language that made the subject understandable for the intelligent layperson.”

Hancock-Cerutti looks forward to building his language skills in France. He is conversational in French, having taken several years of the language in high school and third-semester French at F&M. He credits Lucie Knight, adjunct assistant professor of French, for helping him prepare for his interview with Université Pierre et Marie Curie.

Hancock-Cerutti applied to F&M after his high school biology teacher spoke highly of the school’s rigor and track record of students going on to medical and graduate school.

“I feel like F&M has prepared me for the workload I’ll have in Paris,” Hancock-Cerutti said. “I studied abroad at Oxford and felt that F&M was more rigorous. The chemistry department at F&M is top-notch, and I’ve had a great opportunity to do independent research here.”

Hancock-Cerutti worked closely with Phyllis Leber, the Dr. E. Paul and Frances H. Reiff Professor of Chemistry at F&M, on a summer research project in 2009 and again on an independent study this academic year.

“Will is extremely bright and has an inquiring mind,” Leber said. “He tries to understand in advance of the project what can happen. He has a strong ability to think critically about what he’s doing.”

F&M students and alumni of the past five years who are interested in learning more about Fulbright scholarships and other fellowship opportunities should contact Cable.

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