WSU School of Molecular Biosciences Students Holly and Clark Win National Goldwater Awards

MEDIA: Beverly Makhani, Director of Communications, WSU Office of Undergraduate Education, 509-335-6679,

MEDIA: Charlie Powell, Communications, WSU College of Veterinary Medicine, 509-335-7073,

SOURCE: Mary Sanchez Lanier, University Liaison for Goldwater Fellows, and WSU Assistant Vice Provost, 509-335-2320,

PULLMAN, Wash.—Washington State University undergraduate students Mayumi Holly and Nicole Clark have won awards from Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program, announces Mary Sanchez-Lanier, Goldwater faculty representative at WSU. Both students are seeking bachelor’s degrees from programs in the School of Molecular Biosciences (SMB), part of the College of Veterinary Medicine.

“It’s a pleasure to work with WSU students as they seek the Goldwater awards,” says Sanchez-Lanier. “WSU places a strong emphasis on educating students in the STEM disciplines, and Goldwater applicants are top scholars who plan to seek graduate degrees and build careers in those fields.” STEM refers to “science, technology, engineering, and math.”

Every institution of higher education in the United States can nominate their best students for the Goldwater, which is a prestigious scholarship with one- and two-year awards to students who intend to pursue careers in math, the natural sciences, or engineering. This year, of the 1,123 students nominated nationwide only 282 were selected for the award. With a maximum of $7,500 annually, Goldwater’s cover eligible expenses for tuition, fees, books, and room and board.

A 2010 National Merit Scholar finalist, Clark is a sophomore from Boise, Idaho. She credits her experience volunteering with a genetic counselor in high school with allowing her to “see research improve clinical outcomes (which) has inspired me to pursue a career in laboratory cancer research.” At WSU, she is majoring in biochemistry/molecular biology and genetics/cell biology with minors in chemistry and music, and she serves as president of the Molecular Biosciences Club.

“After earning my Ph.D., I plan to complete a postdoctoral fellowship at a research institution such as St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital or the National Cancer Institute,” she says. “I then plan to work at a research university as a professor. My goal is to perform molecular cancer research and to lead the next generation of biomedical scientists by teaching relevant courses and mentoring undergraduate/graduate student researchers.”

She went on cultural exchange programs to Israel and Jordan, and taught English to Chinese exchange students. “Intercultural experience will help me to promote communication and international collaboration among scientists, which is crucial for success in scientific research.”

A student in SMB’s Students Targeted toward Advanced Research Studies (STARS) program, Clark will complete research rotations in three labs. So far, she has conducted research and been responsible for projects in two SMB labs: Professor Margaret Black’s lab focusing on nucleoside-metabolizing enzymes, and currently in Associate Professor Chengtao Her’s lab focusing on the mechanisms and regulation of DNA double-strand break repair pathways in human cells. Clark also received an Auvil Fellowship from the University College at WSU to support her research, and was a participant in the first WSU-wide Showcase for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (SURCA) in spring 2012.

Holly, a junior from Seattle majoring in microbiology, plans to earn a Ph.D. and conduct research in infectious disease, medical microbiology, or immunology with an emphasis on global health, as well as teach at the university level. “In addition, I intend to become fluent in Spanish.” An International Baccalaureate biology class in high school, excursions focused on ecology and biodiversity to Costa Rica and sailing through the Puget Sound, and an introduction to microbiology inspired her. “During an experiment to transform Escherichia coli cells, I realized I had a passion for microbiology and wanted to pursue it.”

As a WSU sophomore, Holly volunteered in the lab of Professor Michael Konkel. Dr. Konkel’s research focuses on the characterization of Campylobacter jejuni-host cell interactions with the aim of identifying and characterizing binding and entry-promoting proteins. Campylobacter jejuni, says Konkel, is the leading cause of bacterial foodborne illness. Holly’s work, he said, will help to determine how the bacteria cause illness in a host. “Volunteering in a microbiology research laboratory has leveraged my education by allowing me to see how scientific inquiries are undertaken and how the techniques I learned about in theory apply in more practical terms,” says Holly.

She has been on the President’s Honor Roll since fall 2009, was a WSU Mortar Board Freshman Scholar, and received a Cougar Academic Scholar award. She also received a scholarship from the American Institute for Foreign Study to study for 1.5 months in summer 2011 at the Universidad de Granada (Spain). “(It) allowed me to improve my leadership skills and explore my independence.”

A fall 2011 general microbiology course taught by Assistant Professor Susan Wang and Clinical Professor Associate Phil Mixter afforded her another leadership experience. As the top scoring student in the class of 80 students, and with her enthusiasm for active-learning activities, she was selected to be a peer study group facilitator; she is credited with steering most members of her group to increased performance and helping others salvage their grades. “The interaction between myself and the other members facilitated my learning in this class and taught me how to lead a team well,” Holly said.

Since 1990, WSU has had 15 Goldwater Scholarship winners and six honorable mentions. According to Sanchez-Lanier, students with majors in WSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) and the College of Engineering and Architecture (CEA) have been very competitive for Goldwater awards. Last year three students were awarded honorable mentions—two with majors in CVM and one in CEA. Holly and Clark are the fourth and fifth WSU students in the past four years to receive Goldwater Scholarships, with an additional four students being awarded an honorable mention. Sanchez-Lanier serves on the panel that reviews Goldwater Scholar applications nationally.

For more information on the Goldwater and other distinguished scholarships, visit the webpage for Distinguished Scholarship Advising, a program of the University College. Sarah Ann Hones is the program director and assists students, faculty, staff, and advisors on all matters relating to programs such as the Boren, Fulbright, Gilman, Truman, Udall, and Goldwater. []

More information on SMB’s STARS program is available at