The Latest


Caltech Bioengineering Student Named a 2020 Hertz Fellow

Published on Friday, May 22, 2020 | 4:50 am
Sophie Walton Credit: Sophie Walton

Sophie Walton, a Caltech senior majoring in bioengineering, has been selected to receive a fellowship from the Fannie and John Hertz Foundation. She Is among 16 students nationwide to become a Hertz Fellow for 2020.

This year’s 16 fellows were selected from a pool of more than 800 applicants from 24 universities. As recipients of a Hertz Fellowship, they will each receive five years of financial support to pursue a PhD and conduct research of their choice in science, math, or engineering. This year’s cohort includes individuals who plan to research artificial intelligence, sustainability, and drug development.

“By funding innovative thinkers and connecting visionary researchers across generations, geography, and disciplines, we create the conditions for our fellows to have an exponential impact on the most pressing problems facing our nation and world,” said Robbee Baker Kosak, president of the Fannie and John Hertz Foundation, in a prepared statement.

During her time at Caltech, Walton has worked in the lab of Paul Sternberg, Bren Professor of Biology, whose research looks at how the genome of nematode worms affects their physiological development and behavior. She has also worked with Richard Murray (BS ’85), the Thomas E. and Doris Everhart Professor of Control and Dynamical Systems and Bioengineering, in the Division of Engineering and Applied Science, and she has worked as a teaching assistant for six courses.

Walton will attend graduate school at Stanford University, where she plans to research biophysics.

“I am constantly amazed by the diversity and complexity of biology, but at the same time I am a bit intimidated by the vast amounts of biological phenomena that are unsolved or that we know very little about,” she says. “It feels a little scary that we barely know anything about many of the genes in the most well-studied model organisms. I believe that we could solve many world problems if we had a stronger understanding of how biology works.”

Walton is joined in this year’s class of fellows by Alexander Alabugin, a senior studying chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who will attend graduate school at Caltech and study energy science. He is also a fellow of the National Science Foundation.

The Hertz Foundation is the legacy of John Hertz, a Hungarian immigrant who became an entrepreneur in the automotive industry. The foundation has been supporting budding scientists and engineers for 60 years.

For more information, visit

Get our daily Pasadena newspaper in your email box. Free.

Get all the latest Pasadena news, more than 10 fresh stories daily, 7 days a week at 7 a.m.

Make a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *