UA Engineering Student Receives Prestigious Hertz Fellowship

  • April 22nd, 2016

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Sarah McFann, a University of Alabama senior from Arlington, Tennessee, has received an elite Fannie and John Hertz Foundation Fellowship for 2016. McFann is the first UA student to be named a recipient of the award, which has been presented to fewer than 1,200 students in its 53-year history.

Sarah McFann
Sarah McFann

McFann was chosen for the fellowship from a field of more than 800 students from top universities nationwide who will pursue doctorates in science, engineering and mathematics. Winners are selected for their intellect, ingenuity and potential to bring meaningful improvement to society and are encouraged to pursue science for the public good.

The foundation provides doctoral tuition and stipend support for five years while offering its Fellows full research freedom. As a Hertz Fellow, McFann will pursue her doctorate in chemical and biological engineering at Princeton University.

McFann, who is majoring in chemical engineering with minors in chemistry, biology and UA’s Computer-Based Honors Program, is conducting several independent research projects that involve the development of computational cellular models to aid in optimizing bacterial cells for biobutanol production and mammalian cells to produce cancer-treating monoclonal antibodies. Her on-campus research mentors include Dr. Anthony Arduengo III, Saxon Professor of Chemistry; and Dr. Margaret Liu, assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering.

In addition to her on-campus research, she spent a summer conducting research on synthesizing a novel carbene-palladium complex at Hiroshima University in Saijo, Japan; spent a second summer conducting research on how mechanical signals are interpreted by breast cancer cells as an Amgen Scholar under Dr. Daniel Fletcher, Purnendu Chatterjee professor and chair at U.C. Berkeley; and completed an experimental design course at the Vienna University of Technology in Austria.

As a lover of the arts and having received classical training in ballet, she enjoys writing and choreography in her free time. She also engages in tutoring and outreach initiatives aimed at inspiring those who are underrepresented in STEM-related careers to pursue an education in science and engineering.

The Hertz Foundation was created by entrepreneur John Hertz, founder of Hertz Rental Car, to inspire and invest in the future of scientific exploration by providing resources and academic freedom to young minds.


Robbee Baker Kosak, Hertz Foundation, 925/373-1642,


Kristi Payne or Richard LeComte, media relations,, 205/348-3782

The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.