NSEP David L. Boren Fellowship

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Samantha Mensah

Ph.D. student Samantha Theresa Mensah (Andrews/P Weiss groups) has been awarded a Boren Fellowship to conduct research and study Twi in Ghana.  

National Security Education Program (NSEP) David L. Boren Fellowships provide up to $30,000 to U.S. graduate students to add an international component to their graduate education. A fifth-year UCLA chemistry graduate student in the groups of Professors Anne M. Andrews and Paul S. Weiss, Mensah will conduct research at the University of Ghana in Accra where she will work with the West African Center for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP), an international center within the university that conducts research into cell biology and pathogenesis of tropical diseases, with the aim of increasing research and innovation among biomedical scientists and industry leaders across Africa.  

“We look forward to welcoming Samantha to WACCBIP,” said Professor Gordon Akanzuwine Awandare, who will be Mensah’s faculty mentor at the University of Ghana. “We have created a world class ecosystem that favors the development of young scientists and I believe Samantha will have an enriching experience.”  Awandare is a Ghanaian researcher studying infectious disease and the Pro-Vice Chancellor of Academic and Student Affairs at the University of Ghana. 

This will not be Mensah’s first project working on biosensors. She was first exposed to biosensor research as an undergraduate at the University of Central Florida and earned a patent related to her biosensor work there. She has also collaborated with the lab of Professor Joseph Wang at the University of California, San Diego developing wearable biosensors for detection of chemicals in perspiration. At UCLA, Mensah continues her investigation in this field by developing aptamer-based devices that can detect neurotransmitters. Her familiarity with biosensors and nanomaterials is underlined via her five publications in major journals with over 250 citations, and should set her up for a successful research effort in Accra.  

For Mensah, the Boren Fellowship will provide a unique opportunity to learn Twi, her father’s native language. It also creates an opportunity for Mensah to more deeply connect with her family’s cultural roots. 

“Many of my connections with Ghana were encumbered or even severed when my father passed away when I was a teenager,” Mensah said. “I have never had the opportunity to visit Ghana, and Twi was not a very accessible language growing up in the Caribbean or in south Florida.” 

“Without the training and support from my PhD advisors, Professor Gordon Awandare, and his student Felix Ansah, I wouldn’t have been able to successfully propose a feasible and impactful research project,” Mensah said. 

David L. Boren Scholarships and Fellowships are sponsored by the National Security Education Program (NSEP), a major federal initiative designed to build a broader and more qualified pool of U.S. citizens with foreign language and international skills. Boren Awards provide U.S. undergraduate and graduate students with resources to acquire language skills and experience in countries critical to the future security and stability of the nation.