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Alum’s Passion for Science Pays Off with Food and Drug Administration Fellowship

Charles Anamelechi received his Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Duke University in 2008 under the direction of Professor William “Monty” Reichert. While a graduate student, Charles researched the optimization of protein systems to improve endothelial cell adhesion and retention on synthetic vascular grafts. “The goal,” Charles says “was to create the first readily available graft for patients requiring repeat bypass operations.” Immediately following graduation, Charles became a postdoctoral fellow in the same lab. His postdoctoral project focused on mitigating the foreign body reaction to implanted biomaterial through introduction of exogenous anti-inflammatory cytokines. The outcomes of both projects, Charles says, “are centered on improving and prolonging the utility of implanted devices.”

Charles believes that a passion for improved health care has been at the core of his academic and professional ambitions, and this passion has recently earned him a spot in the second class of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner’s Fellowship Program, a two-year fellowship program for health professionals and scientists. He, as one of the fifty fellows selected out of over 1,000 candidates, will receive training and gain experience at FDA’s state-of-the-art White Oak Campus in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Charles will bring the wealth of skills and knowledge that he gained in his doctoral program and postdoctoral position at Duke to the FDA Fellowship Program. He says, “My doctoral advisor encouraged me to work independently. This helped me gain experience with autonomously developing procedures to solve complex research challenges and also honed my ability to design work agendas and balance numerous ongoing tasks at once.” It also helped that he received funding for his doctoral studies by way of a Duke Endowment Fellowship, now called the Dean’s Graduate Fellowship. “The fellowship was immensely helpful in supporting me during the early years of my graduate work,” Charles says. “It supplemented summer research support and provided money that allowed me to attend conferences.”

Charles is quick to point out, however, that his professional development at Duke extended beyond academic research. He believes his experience was greatly enhanced by branching outside his department to find organizations and student networks that were in-line with his other interests. For example, he was one of the organizers of the Duke Start-Up Challenge, a student run entrepreneurship competition. In this capacity, he evaluated potential technologies developed in the engineering school and recruited team members to write a business plan to enter into competition. Charles says, “this experience enhanced my appreciation for the potential market value of excellent scientific work and my interactions with corporate sponsors taught me about the decisions that have to be made prior to moving forward with a project or product development.” Charles’ experience with the Duke Start-Up Challenge was also meaningful because it served as a tipping point in his graduate career in that it defined his post-graduate career ambitions. Charles says, “On the heels of this experience, I enrolled in courses at the Fuqua School of Business and participated in other entrepreneurial clubs and activities….It was an excellent opportunity for me to get exposed to the breadth of options that exist beyond the traditional career tracks.”

When asked what advice he would share with currently enrolled graduate students, Charles says, “I think students should take the time to explore the many social and professional opportunities that exist at Duke and elsewhere in order to round out their graduate or professional school experience.” He believes that his doctoral experience and the “rigor of being at Duke” along with his extensive research experience and demonstrated interest in diverse fields has prepared him well for any challenges he could face in his role as fellow in the FDA Commissioner’s Fellowship Program.

For more information on the Duke Start-Up Challenge, please see the Web site:

For more information on the FDA Commissioner’s Fellowship Program, please see the Web site: