2022 Sewer scholarship winners announced

The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology is pleased to announce the recipients of the Marion B. Sever Distinguished Scholarship for Undergraduates in 2022.

The ASBMB’s Maximum Access Committee (formerly known as the Minority Affairs Committee) created this award in 2016 to support undergraduate students who demonstrate an interest in the fields of biochemistry and molecular biology and advance the diversity of science. This year, thanks in part to a generous donation from New England Biolabs, ASBMB is awarding ten $2,000 scholarships to be applied toward tuition costs.

The award honors Marion B. North, ASBMB member and former MAC president who died in 2016 at the age of 43. Sever has been the principal investigator on projects dedicated to increasing participation among historically underrepresented groups and improving student training. Within the ASBMB, she organized MAC’s interactive mentoring workshop to advance grants for postdoctoral fellows and early career scientists, known as IMAGE, which addresses disparities in scientists’ ability to secure federal research grants. She has also written about issues facing historically underrepresented scientists, such as impostor syndrome.

Here, 10 recipients of the 2022 Sewer Scholarship describe their personal goals and how they are promoting diversity. Their statements have been edited.

Moiofoluwa (Rachel) Aguda, University at Buffalo

Moiofoluwa (Rachel) Aguda, University at Buffalo

My career goal is to become a physician-scientist who works directly with patients while seeking actionable knowledge that can improve health through research. As a physician-scientist, I hope to bridge the communication gap between research, patients, and their health care plans, while encouraging the growth of physician-scientists. After graduation, I will take a year to fulfill my commitment to the National Institutes of Health as an intern before applying for a Ph.D. programs.

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Rita Anoh, University of Mount St

Rita Anoh, University of Mount St

After graduating with degrees in biochemistry and French, I intend to pursue a Ph.D. in biochemistry and structural biology and explore other areas of interest such as genetics and molecular biology during my training. As a scientist, my goal is to make science more accessible and to be a good mentor to students. I am passionate about not only inviting those from underrepresented backgrounds, but also maintaining their active presence in the scientific community and fostering meaningful and productive experiences.

Sarah Gallegos, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Sarah Gallegos, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

My professional aspiration is to advocate for easier access to science, technology, engineering and mathematics and to mentor others who seek it. As part of that, I would like to make literature and research more accessible and understandable to the general public. I was proud to serve underserved communities at Virginia Tech. As a Howard Hughes Medical Institute student, I represent members of historically underrepresented groups within the biochemistry department and attend student-led panels on how the university can advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion in the STEM fields.

Natasha Garcia Rodriguez, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

Natasha Garcia Rodriguez, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

My goal is to attend naturopathic medical school at Sonoran University of Health Sciences and continue to gain research experience at the Ric Scalzo Institute for Botanical Research. After accomplishing these goals, I will be able to contribute a unique perspective to both naturopathic medicine and research, and I hope to serve as an ethnic minority women’s health professional and researcher in my community, making a positive and productive impact on patients, students, and Science.

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Michelle Haigbea, College of the Holy Cross

Michelle Haigbea, College of the Holy Cross

My career goal is to become a pharmacist and use my pharmacy degree to act as a trusted link between doctors and patients. Pharmacists double-check drug dosage and drug interactions to improve patient experience and health. Pharmacists are among the most accessible healthcare professionals because they usually work in the environment. With the busyness of life and the rise of numerous illnesses and diseases, I want to be a professional who is available over the counter, with or without an appointment.

Phinn Markson, Edgewood College

Phinn Markson, Edgewood College

I am a first generation community college transfer student with a bachelor’s degree in biology. I intend to pursue a Ph.D. in research at the intersection of life sciences, data sciences, and social sciences so that I can facilitate increased diversity and equity in research by reducing data collection bias. Life sciences have solutions to many threats to humanity. To achieve these solutions, the life sciences must acknowledge the historical role we have played in structural sexism and racism. I hope to work towards that goal by bridging data gaps and creating more equitable research questions.

Taylor McGee, Hampden-Sydney College

Taylor McGee, Hampden-Sydney College

My primary research interest is anti-HIV cell therapy and I will apply to relevant Ph.D. programs and international scholarships. I would like to be a professor and be able to provide holistic and transformative mentoring experiences in the same way that my professors have provided meaningful, transformative experiences for me.

Katie Nunez, Towson University

Katie Nunez, Towson University

After graduating with degrees in molecular biology, biochemistry, and bioinformatics, I plan to pursue a post-graduate fellowship at the National Institutes of Health to gain experience with translational research. I will then apply to PhD programs in immunology or molecular biology. I plan to stay in the field of immunology or branch out into molecular medicine as a researcher, as I enjoy my current research on septic shock. Discovering the inner workings of the human immune system and exploring the research and treatment of disease has been very rewarding.

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Sam J. Shepard, University of North Carolina at Asheville

Sam J.  Shepard, University of North Carolina at Asheville

As an aspiring physician-scientist, I hope to take an interdisciplinary approach to better understanding and treating disease. In addition, as a trans scientist with anti-racism and anti-oppression core values, I am committed to building breakthroughs for historically excluded groups to excel and enjoy science and medicine. My scientific interests are focused on cellular mechanisms of cancer, immunology and mitochondria. I am currently seeking graduate research opportunities to further explore these interests before applying to PhD programs.

Mirah Sheriff, University of Texas at Austin

Mirah Sheriff, University of Texas at Austin

I plan to attend medical school to pursue a career as a pediatrician. My career choice is largely due to my own experience with facial surgery at a very young age. I have always wanted to provide medical care to young children and have a genuine interest in helping patients cope with the aftereffects of surgery, both positive and negative. I am interested in expanding education about medical resources and improving access to primary care physicians, especially in my father’s village of Asin-Fosu in Ghana. I would like to set up a donation program where used equipment from the US could be sent to improve conditions in developing countries.

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