U Student Receives Prestigious Fulbright Award


Precious Cantu’s research into optical nanolithography is taking her from the Rocky Mountains of Utah to the snow-capped Swiss Alps.

The University of Utah graduate research assistant in electrical and computer engineering has received a Fulbright U.S. Student Award to Switzerland (also known in Switzerland as The Swiss Government Excellence Scholarship). She is one of six U students who have been accepted this year to study abroad through the Fulbright program for 2015-2016 and the only one from the U’s College of Engineering. Cantu will be conducting research at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne.

“It was pretty exciting,” she said about the news of being accepted. “It’s satisfying and gratifying after putting in so much effort and being recognized. It’s an honor to be representing the university, engineering and the U.S.”

Cantu, who is working toward her Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering, will spend a year in Lausanne continuing her research into optical nanolithography with applications in tissue engineering. This involves using novel techniques to fabricate three-dimensional tissue-engineering scaffolds, artificial structures capable of supporting tissue formation. Tissue engineering has many applications including growing healthy cells outside of the body to later implant in the body. This could be used to grow healthy brain cells, for example, for patients affected by Alzheimer’s Disease.

Cantu, who originally is from Houston, received her undergraduate degree in electrical engineering at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. She enrolled in the U in 2011 to work on her Ph.D. Her advisor is U electrical and computer engineering associate professor Rajesh Menon, and her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and the U’s Nanotechnology Training Program through the Nano Institute of Utah.

“It has opened a lot of doors for me as far as making personal connections with fellow researchers,” she said about her experience at the U. “It’s been a privilege to be a part of the University of Utah and the research team and Rajesh’s group.”