Graduate students win Dissertation Completion Fellowship Awards

Author: Iqbal Pittalwala
May 20, 2024

Graduate students Wayne Water Vigil Jr. and Giulia Alboreggia have each won a Dissertation Completion Fellowship Award. The award, given by the UCR Graduate Division, is given to doctoral students for up to two quarters.  

Wayne Vigil, Jr.

Vigil Jr. and Alboreggia are the first two graduates with doctoral degrees from the Biophysics Graduate Program, directed by Roya Zandi, a professor of physics and astronomy. 

Vigil Jr. who works with Russ Hille, a distinguished professor of biochemistry, has won the award for the spring quarter and will receive $10,000. He plans to use the award money to pay his rent while completing his dissertation work. 

Vigil Jr. will graduate next month with a doctoral degree in biophysics, after which he will start a postdoctoral appointment at UCR. He was drawn to the new Biophysics Graduate Program because he “liked the idea of trailblazing something that hadn’t been done before.” 

“There’s a familiarity in the unknown,” he said.

Vigil Jr. is a self-proclaimed “desert rat from the mountains of New Mexico.” A first-generation college student, he worked full time as an emergency medical technician during his high-school and undergraduate years. He received his dual-major from the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology: one degree in chemical engineering with a minor in chemistry and the second a degree in biomedical sciences. 

“I have been beyond fortunate in my time here at UCR, from getting an amazing mentor, Dr. Hille, who has been nothing short of phenomenal,” he said. “I got to travel to Europe to present my research in 2021 and received the Science of Sustainability Fellowship last year. All the ups and downs have made for a wild time here at UCR and I’m glad the coin-flip that brought me down to Riverside landed heads and not tails.”

Vigil Jr. has two pet rabbits.

“One uses her five pounds of fluffy might to terrorize me given the opportunity,” he said.

Giulia Alboreggia.

Alboreggia, who works with Maurizio Pellecchia, a professor of biomedical sciences and the Daniel Hays Endowed Chair in Cancer Research in the School of Medicine, received a $10,000 stipend for the spring quarter. She will use the money to help pay her rent and visit family and friends in Italy to celebrate the successful defense of her dissertation. She plans to work as a postdoctoral researcher in Pellecchia’s lab.

“I became very passionate about medicinal chemistry, which involves the synthesis and development of new drugs,” Alboreggia said. “Biophysical techniques are crucial to support all stages of drug discovery. It's why I chose the Biophysics Graduate Program for my doctoral degree.”

Alboreggia received her undergraduate degree and master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Insubria in Italy. Earlier this month, she received the Biophysics Excellence Award.