Messer Wins Knight-Hennessey Fellowship

Bioengineering alum Conor Messer, E’19, is one of two Northeastern students to win a Knight-Hennessey Scholars fellowship.

‘I Fell in Love with Tech.’ Two Northeastern Scholars Win Knight-Hennessy Fellowships

Northeastern has launched two scholars, Emerson Johnston and Conor Messer, on their tech journey. Johnston fell in love with tech policy during her research work at the university and Messer stood out in his challenging classes.

Johnston is graduating in May with a major in politics, philosophy, economics and history, culture and law—as one of the first to switch to the new combined major.

Messer is an associate computational biologist at the Broad Institute who graduated from Northeastern in 2019 with a major in biomechanical engineering.

The two accomplished students recently won the Knight-Hennessey Scholars fellowships. They will pursue master’s degrees at Stanford University beginning in the fall.

The scholars will participate in up to three years of programming that complements their graduate studies and prepares them to take on leadership roles in academia, industry, government, nonprofits and the community.

Both Johnston and Messer say Northeastern has helped them on their journey.

Messer says Northeastern allowed him to go abroad and experience new cultures, expanding his worldview.

“All of that has shaped the way I view my work and the things that I am passionate about and the things I want to pursue,” says Messer.

Northeastern, Johnston says, has allowed him to meet new people, from mentors to lifelong friends.

“I’m really grateful for the people,” Johnston says. “We have a ton of really cool people in our network who I call close friends.”

Johnston and Messer say they worked their way up to this moment.

Messer impresses with dedication to problem-solving 

Messer, who grew up in Colorado, started his journey at Northeastern University in 2014 as part of the first cohort of bioengineering undergraduates, serving as a “guinea pig” for professors and faculty members to develop new classes.

“It was a cool experience, and I had a cohort of really incredible students that have all gone on to do some really cool things,” says Messer.

Messer also received mentorship from faculty members in bioengineering and other related fields.

“He stood out in the class immediately—curious, inquisitive, motivated and dedicated,” says Sandra Shefelbine, an associate dean for Space and Special Initiatives. “It was a pleasure to watch him explore his interests and grow academically, personally and as a researcher during his time at Northeastern.”

Messer graduated in 2019 with a degree in bioengineering with minors in computer science and vocal performance.

Following graduation, Messer was awarded a Fulbright fellowship in the United Arab Emirates at Khalifa University. He moved to Abu Dhabi to research surgical robotics.

Afterward, he landed a job at the Broad Institute, where he now works on cancer research, studying drug resistance.

“When I met Conor as a freshman here at Northeastern, I knew he was a very special individual. Brilliant, generous, caring and destined to make the world a better place for all of us,” says Jeffrey Ruberti, a bioengineering professor.

Messer worked in Ruberti’s lab during the summer of his first year at school. Messer’s images made the Journal of Tissue Engineering cover and made him an author. Ruberti also says that Messer was one of the best students he ever instructed in a very difficult core course, Quantitative Physiology.

“By the time [Messer] was accepted as a Fulbright Scholar, I was no longer surprised, just proud to be associated with him,” says Ruberti. “Finally, when I found out that Conor would become a Knight-Hennessey Scholar at Stanford, I thought quietly to myself, they will be proud too.”

Source: University Research and Fellowships

Related Departments:Bioengineering