Bliss Chang awarded Fulbright Scholarship to study in Germany

UAB senior will research Alzheimer’s disease abroad through prestigious scholarship program.

Written by: Katherine Shonesy
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RS11829 Bliss Chang 8University of Alabama at Birmingham honors student has been named to an elite group that includes heads of state, CEOs and Nobel Prize winners. Bliss Chang, a senior majoring in biochemistry and biology within the College of Arts and Sciences, has been awarded a 2015 Fulbright scholarship to conduct research in Germany for a year.

Chang, a member of the UAB Honors College Science and Technology Honors Program, is the 17th UAB student to receive this honor since 1993.

“Without a doubt, I am humbled and honored to be a Fulbright scholarship recipient,” said Chang, who also was a 2014 Goldwater Scholarship recipient and a 2013 Beckman Scholar. “I don’t think it’s fully sunk in yet.”

The Fulbright Program, sponsored by the U.S. government, gives students the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research overseas as part of the organization’s goal to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries. Participants are selected based on academic merit and leadership potential and help contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.

“My inclusion in this program is possible only because of all the support that I have received from my family, friends and mentors,” Chang said. “People often congratulate and celebrate winners of prestigious awards but forget that the awards were not won by one individual. They are truly won together as a family, and these supporters should receive just as much credit.”

Most recently, Chang has worked in the labs of two mentors — Jamil Saad, Ph.D., associate professor of microbiology, and Elizabeth Sztul, Ph.D., professor of cell, developmental and integrative biology. Chang credits his collaboration with one of his first mentors, Timothy Fernandez, a UAB alumnus, for encouraging his original passion for research.

While in Germany, Chang will conduct research in the lab of Markus Zweckstetter, Ph.D., and he will focus his studies on a protein that plays a central role in the proliferation of Alzheimer’s disease. Zweckstetter’s expertise in this area will enable Chang to work in the world’s only lab to possess a crucial segment of this protein.

“Chang exemplifies the caliber of students coming to UAB in increasing numbers to prepare for dynamic careers and leadership roles that impact our state, nation and world,” said Shannon Blanton, Ph.D., dean of the UAB Honors College. “His appointment reflects UAB’s continued tradition of academic excellence and commitment to serving our local and global community.”

Chang, who graduates later this month, has big plans for his future, both in the short and long terms. He hopes to help make scientific breakthroughs during his Fulbright appointment in Germany, while also taking in the German culture. An avid pingpong enthusiast, Chang intends to spend some of his time outside of the lab furthering his skills in the sport.

“I’m ecstatic about having the opportunity to spend an entire year in Germany,” Chang said.

Eventually, Chang would like to pursue an M.D./Ph.D. degree and work to bring basic science findings to fruition in the clinic.