Graduate awarded prestigious Luce Foundation fellowship

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Posted: Apr 28, 2010

Henry Cheng
Henry Cheng
Henry Cheng, a 2009 UH Mānoa biological engineering graduate and former UH Regents Scholar, was recently awarded a scholarship from the Luce Scholars Program, a prestigious and nationally competitive fellowship program.
Launched in 1974, the Luce Scholars Program represents a major effort by the Henry Luce Foundation to enhance the understanding of Asia among potential leaders in American society.  The program, which partners with the Asia Foundation, is intended for college seniors, graduate students and young professionals in a variety of fields who have had limited exposure to Asia. 
Cheng, whose parents came to Hawai‘i as Vietnam War refugees, is one of 18 Luce Scholars who will be provided a stipend, language training and individualized professional placement in Asia. His year-long internship placement at Chulalongkorn University in Thailand will allow him to work on pandemic preparedness projects involving either avian influenza or the Nipah Virus, an emerging zoonotic virus that has infected hundreds of humans in Southeast Asia with a 40-70 percent mortality rate.
Luce Scholar candidates are nominated by 75 colleges and universities in the U.S., and are required to demonstrate a record of high achievement, outstanding leadership ability, and a clearly defined career interest with evidence of potential for professional accomplishment. Cheng was among 159 candidates nominated during this year’s selection period. Although UH Mānoa is not a nominating institution, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a participating institution where Cheng conducted research, nominated him. While working at MIT and Massachusetts General Hospital, Cheng helped to develop devices for ultrasensitive protein detection and virus counting, respectively.
During his tenure at UH Mānoa, with funding from a two-year National Institutes of Health MARC U-STAR undergraduate fellowship and under the direction of Dr. Daniel Jenkins of UH Mānoa’s Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering department, Cheng completed his honors thesis. It involved prototyping electrode chips from ordinary compact discs and optimizing DNA detection techniques for agricultural pathogen detection.
Outside of academics, Cheng is passionate about public policy advocacy. In 2009, as a senator in the Associated Students of the University of Hawai‘i (ASUH), he led an initiative that gained UH Board of Regents and City Council approval for a $20 per semester student fee. It led to every UH Mānoa undergraduate and graduate student having unlimited access to the city bus, based on a capstone project that three Masters of Public Administration students brought to ASUH.
“I am extremely grateful for the incredible opportunities UH Mānoa has offered me, and believe that choosing to attend UH Mānoa was the best decision I have ever made,” said Cheng. “Dr. Jon Goss, director of UH Mānoa’s Honors Program, helped me tremendously in preparing for this major scholarship competition through an Honors seminar course on scholarship preparation, and lots of personal guidance.”
After completion of his Luce scholarship year, Cheng will enter Stanford University’s Bioengineering PhD program in Fall 2011.
For more information on the Luce Foundation, see