Laura M. Alderfer wins Notre Dame’s Shaheen Graduate Student Award

Laura M. Alderfer

Laura M. Alderfer, Ph.D. candidate in the Graduate Program in Bioengineering, is the 2023 recipient of Notre Dame’s Eli J. and Helen Shaheen Graduate Student Award.

She will be formally recognized for her achievements at the Graduate School Commencement Ceremony to be held at Notre Dame Stadium on May 20.

The Shaheen Award recognizes one graduating Ph.D. student in each of the four divisions of the Notre Dame Graduate School. Students are honored for excellence in research, teaching, and mentoring.

“Laura embodies the traits of a successful and impactful scientific leader who will leave their mark on society,” said Donny Hanjaya Putra, assistant professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering and Alderfer’s faculty adviser.

“From the start of her Ph.D. studies, she has demonstrated daily that she is exceptionally driven and motivated by the ultimate goal of making a global impact on human health through innovative solutions.”

Alderfer’s research has made field-altering contributions to the scientific understanding of the lymphatic system. She has demonstrated a novel in vitro engineering method that could lead to the first long-term treatment for lymphedema, a debilitating disease often associated with cancer treatment and infections, which affects 250 million people globally.

She has coauthored nine peer-reviewed publications in leading international journals, and, in 2021, she received a Fulbright fellowship to work at the University of Helsinki with a world-renowned expert in lymphatic biology.  

As a doctoral student, Alderfer mentored and trained over 20 graduate, undergraduate, and high school students. She also served on the leadership committee for Expanding Your Horizons, an annual conference reaching 300 middle school girls and encouraging them to explore careers in STEM.

— Karla Cruise, Notre Dame College of Engineering