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WHS Grad (Dan Kagan '12) Receives $35K Award for Research Work

ARTICLE BY: Liz Alterman

Westfield Patch

December 20th 2011

Dan Kagan, who graduated from Westfield High School in 2002, was one of five students at University of California San Diego to receive the Siebel Scholar award for his academic and leadership achievements in the field of cancer research.

Kagan, a Ph.D. student in professor Joseph Wang’s Laboratory for Nanobioelectronics in the Department of NanoEngineering, will receive a $35,000 fellowship during the final year of his studies.

The WHS graduate, who crafts nano-scale rockets that can detect cancer cells, isolate proteins and provide targeted drug delivery, plans to use some of the funds to explore possible ideas for a startup company after he graduates in spring 2012.

“I am ecstatic,” Kagan said. “I have been working very hard in the lab, and I am honored to be recognized with such a prestigious award.”

Kagan's research focuses on nano-scale motors that can be propelled in a variety of ways. To develop some of the nanorockets in Wang’s lab, he exploited a relationship between a solution’s silver ion concentration and the speed of gold and platinum nanowires for sensing nucleic acids.

He also found a way to make binding to biological targets, such as DNA and RNA, more effective by using microrockets propelled by oxygen bubbles. The motors and rockets are fairly inexpensive to manufacture – and their motion is visible with a strong magnifying glass.

Kagan also plans to use some of the award to help develop a guide to molecular biology protocols and troubleshooting in the lab. Proceeds from the guide’s sales would go toward the purchase of science materials for high school classrooms.

"I think it’s a great example of a community member getting recognized for making a difference," said Kristin Luciani, Social Media and Communications Coordinator for UC San Diego's Communications and Public Affairs department.

When he isn’t in the lab, Kagan is the cultural coordinator for UC San Diego’s Graduate Student Association. He plans field trips to museums, the symphony and Broadway San Diego shows, among other destinations. He also organized the first-ever graduate student art competition on campus in March.

Outside of campus, Kagan recently participated in the New York City Marathon on Nov. 6.