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Undergraduate Researcher Earns Prestigious National Scholarship

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CONTACT: Ron Hartung, College of Medicine
(850) 645-9205; Ronald.Hartung@med.fsu.edu
 

By Ron Hartung
March 2013
 

UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCHER EARNS PRESTIGIOUS NATIONAL SCHOLARSHIP
 

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Medical students aren’t the only ones who excel in the Florida State University College of Medicine. There are graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, even undergraduates — such as Elizabeth Ogunrinde, who has earned national recognition.
 

Ogunrinde, a student in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry who also does research at the medical school, is one of only 15 college juniors nationwide to receive a UNCF-Merck Undergraduate Science Research Scholarship. When she got the news by phone, she was walking from her biochemistry class over to the med school.
 

“I said, ‘Wow, thank you!’” recalled Ogunrinde (pronounced o-GUR-in-day), 19, from Deltona, Fla. “I said ‘Thank you’ about a million times.”
 

She had good reason to be thankful: The award provides up to $25,000 toward tuition, room and board, and fees. In addition, each recipient will be mentored by a Merck scientist and may receive a stipend of at least $5,000 for an internship at Merck the summer after junior year.
 

“It’s a huge benefit and relief,” Ogunrinde said. “I think it will definitely let me focus on my research. And it will take some of the financial burden off my parents.”
 

UNCF stands for United Negro College Fund. The scholarship is designed to help African-American undergraduates further their science education and potentially pursue science and engineering careers. The scholarship criteria were grades, demonstrated interest in a scientific education and career, and ability to perform in a lab or engineering environment.
 

“She thinks clearly and solves problem well,” Richard Nowakowski, chair of the College of Medicine’s Department of Biomedical Sciences, wrote in a letter recommending Ogunrinde for the scholarship. “She is not deterred by the setbacks that often occur in research. She has a brilliant mind and a maturity that is far beyond what is expected of those her age.”
 

Since August, Ogunrinde’s lab work has involved comparing hippocampus tissue from normal mice with tissue from mice that have a mutation for Alzheimer’s disease. “We’re hoping that we’ll be able to find biomarkers that someday, in humans, will indicate whether someone already has or is developing Alzheimer’s,” she said.
 

Both of her parents are nurses, and in 11th grade she started volunteering at the local hospital, so she’d love a clinical career. On the other hand, she was in 10th grade when she fell in love with science. She hopes to pursue an M.D./Ph.D. major.
 

“I don’t want to give up either one,” she said, “so I’ll just do both of them.”
 

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Visit the UNCF website for more scholarship details.