2 Students Earn Goldwater Scholarships

Molecular biology and biochemistry majors Noah Biro ’09, above, and Alison Ringel ’09, below will conduct independent research next year with help from a Goldwater Scholarship.
Posted 04/21/08
Alison Ringel ’09 and Noah Biro ’09, both molecular biology and biochemistry majors, will conduct independent research as Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program fellows in 2008-09.

The two students were among 321 juniors and seniors nationwide selected for highly competitive undergraduate scholarship in science, math or engineering. The Goldwater Scholarship is applied to their undergraduate studies. Next year, they will receive up to $7,500 each to help defray the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board.

“The awards are a great external acknowledgment of the quality and significance of the student’s achievements,” explains Ringel’s advisor Scott Holmes, associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry. “A student might feel good about how they are progressing through our program, but still wonder how they compare to the larger population of students outside of Wesleyan who have similar aspirations. The award should be a big confidence booster that keeps them aiming high.”

Biro, who is double majoring in sociology, will conduct research with Manju Hingorani, associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry. The Hingorani laboratory studies particular aspects of DNA repair and replication. Biro is currently studying the repair enzyme Msh2-Msh3 (MutS homologue), which is implicated in neurodegenerative disorders such as Huntington’s disease.

“Specifically, I hope to establish some of the kinetic parameters that describe the protein’s mechanism of action in the hope that my findings will facilitate treatment of this genetic disorder,” Biro explains.

Ringel works in the Holmes lab, which studies how genes are turned on and off at the level of DNA and chromatin. She is double majoring in physics and will use her scholarship to conduct research on characterizing interaction between two proteins, one active in glycolysis (a pathway that breaks down certain types of sugars for conversion into energy) and the other required for gene silencing.

“Understanding the nature of this interaction could yield insight regarding the interplay between metabolism, aging and gene silencing,” Ringel explains.

Both students will be Hughes Fellows at Wesleyan this summer, as well, permitting them to get a head start on their research projects. Ringel and Biro are also enrolled in joint B.A.-M.A. programs in molecular biology and biochemistry and plan to go on to obtain their Ph.Ds.

Biro’s future goal is to conduct research in biomedical science for a non-profit organization, concentrating on pandemics. Ringel hopes to study biophysics and ultimately end up teaching and doing research at a college or university.

Ringel and Biro were selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1,035 mathematics, science, and engineering students who were nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities nationwide.

“When I found out that I had received the Goldwater scholarship I felt incredibly proud but somewhat shocked,” Ringle says. “I’m just very happy to have received this honor.

The Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by Congress in 1986 to honor Senator Barry M. Goldwater, who served his country for 56 years as a soldier and statesman, including 30 years of service in the U.S. Senate. The Goldwater Foundation is a federally endowed agency established by Public Law 99-661 on Nov. 14, 1986.

The Goldwater Scholarship was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences, and engineering.

For more information go to http://www.act.org/goldwater/

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor