UAB alumnus awarded Phi Kappa Phi fellowship to further studies

As a Phi Kappa Phi fellow, 2021 UAB graduate Jason Zhang will pursue a Ph.D. in biological engineering at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology.
Written by: Karen Templeton
Media contact: Yvonne Taunton

University of Alabama at BirminghamZhang.2Jason Zhang
Photo by: Lexi Coon
2021 graduate Jason Zhang has been awarded a fellowship worth $8,500 by The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi — the nation’s oldest and most selective collegiate honor society for all academic disciplines. Zhang is one of 50 recipients nationwide to receive a Phi Kappa Phi fellowship.

Zhang earned a degree in biomedical engineering and a minor in mathematics from UAB’s School of Engineering. Zhang was also a student in the Science and Technology Honors Program within UAB’s Honors College. As a Phi Kappa Phi fellow, Zhang will pursue a Ph.D. in biological engineering at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology. He has also been awarded a graduate fellowship from Tau Beta Pi, the oldest engineering honor society and the second-oldest collegiate honor society in the United States, and will receive a stipend of $10,000 to support his first year of graduate study.  

Zhang is an international student originally from Xi’an, China. After he moved to the United States with his family in 2013, they moved to Montgomery, Alabama, in 2014, and he resided there until his collegiate journey began at UAB.  

“Watching Jason grow as a researcher and scholar during his time at UAB has been a privilege,” said Michelle Cook, Ph.D., interim director of National and International Fellowships and Scholarships at UAB. “This award recognizes his potential as much as his achievements, and he deserves this honor.”

Since its creation in 1932, the Fellowship Program has become one of the society’s most visible and financially well-supported endeavors, allocating $615,000 annually to outstanding students for first-year graduate or professional study. This year’s program awarded 50 fellowships of $8,500; six $20,000 Marcus L. Urann Fellowships, named for the Society’s founder; and two awards at $35,000 each: the 1897 Fellowship and the Sherrill Carlson Fellowship.

The selection process for a fellowship is based on the applicant’s evidence of graduate potential, undergraduate academic achievement, service and leadership experience, letters of recommendation, personal statement of educational perspective and career goals, and acceptance in an approved graduate or professional program.

While at UAB, Zhang was trained in cell and molecular biology research by Zsuzsanna Bebok, M.D., associate professor in the UAB Department of Cell, Developmental and Integrative Biology. With support from the Office of Service Learning and Undergraduate Research, he traveled to Oldenburg, Germany, to present his research and make connections with future scientific leaders during the 2019 World Congress on Undergraduate Research. Zhang credits the opportunities and mentorship available at UAB for his success.

“UAB gave me everything: the resources, opportunities, mentorships, friendships and more,” Zhang said. “Here, I elucidated a future career in biomedical research; I trained under mentors who value my growth and developments more than their career advancements. In this collaborative, kind and welcoming environment, I was able to grow my scholarship, leadership and character and genuinely enjoy my time as an undergraduate.”

Founded in 1897, Phi Kappa Phi inducts approximately 30,000 students, faculty, professional staff and alumni annually. The society has chapters on more than 300 select colleges and universities in the United States and the Philippines. Membership is by invitation only to the top 10 percent of seniors and graduate students and 7.5 percent of juniors. Faculty, professional staff and alumni who have achieved scholarly distinction also qualify. The society’s mission is “To recognize and advance excellence in all fields of higher education and society and engage the community of scholars in service to others.” For more information, visit