The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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MIE Graduate Student Jamar Hawkins Awarded NAACP Scholarship

Jamar Hawkins

Jamar Hawkins

Jamar Hawkins, a doctoral student in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Department, has received the NAACP’s Hubertus W. V. Willems Scholarship for 2022. This scholarship is awarded annually to male students majoring in engineering, chemistry, physics, or mathematical sciences.

Hawkins is currently a fourth-year Ph.D. student whose research areas are focused on mechanobiology and embryo culture. In addition to the Willems scholarship, Hawkins has registered a number of other notable achievements while at UMass Amherst, including completing a fellowship from the Soft Materials for Life Sciences (SMLS) National Research Traineeship Program, receiving a Spaulding-Smith Fellowship, and receiving a UMass Amherst Rising Researcher Award. 

Hawkins also teaches a first-year engineering seminar, The Engineer's Guide to the Cell, and has volunteered for the UMass Amherst Covid Testing Center and earned a graduate certificate in Soft Materials for the Life Sciences through the Polymer Science Department.

Hawkins is a member of the research team of his advisor, Yubing Sun, an MIE assistant professor and an adjunct in the Chemical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering Departments. 

“Specifically,” Sun said about his Laboratory for Multiscale Bioengineering and Mechanobiology, “we are interested in how mechanical information, encoded in nano-scale molecules, guides micro-scale cells to assemble into mili-scale functional tissues and organs. We also develop tools that interact with biomolecules, cells, and tissues for a range of applications from diagnostics of diseases to regenerative medicine.”

As Hawkins explained in a letter to the NAACP accepting his scholarship, “Though graduate school has often been stressful and expensive, I have never regretted my decision to enroll. From my three years of doctoral study, I have developed the confidence to welcome criticism and the tenacity to brush off failure. I understand that I am very privileged to be in graduate school, as very few people, especially young Black males, get the opportunity to attend.” 

For Hawkins, the scholarship also means much more than financial aid. “As a Black graduate student in engineering, it can be very easy to feel invalidated…For me to know that there are people that have faith in Black futures, and that I am part of a larger community that believes in me, really helps with that gap in validation.” 

(December 2021)