Fourth annual Gopi Podila Memorial Scholarship awarded

Maria Torres

Maria Torres, a senior double-majoring in biology and chemistry, receives this year’s Gopi Podila Memorial Scholarship from Dr. Deb Moriarity, Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences.

Michael Mercier | UAH

Senior Maria Torres was presented with the fourth annual Gopi Podila Memorial Scholarship at a ceremony held yesterday by the Department of Biological Sciences at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).

Named for the late Dr. Gopi Podila, the $1000 scholarship is sponsored by the Partnership for Biotechnology Research (PBR), of which Dr. Podila was a founding member. It is awarded each year to an undergraduate student in the biological sciences who exemplifies the scholarship's three criteria: academic performance, service to the department, and a demonstrated interest in biological research.

This award is definitely a huge blessing for me, and I can certainly say that my success at UAH is due in large part to the phenomenal support of my mentors and advisors.

Maria Torres
UAH student

This year, two students - Torres and fellow senior Garrett Dunn - were nominated. "It was a very close vote, as always," says Dr. Debra Moriarity, Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences. "Both of them have a 4.0 grade average, both are double majors in biology and chemistry, and both are very involved in research, so the faculty had trouble choosing between them."

Torres was praised for her efforts to promote awareness of the university's College of Science among underrepresented minorities, in part through her position as president of the Hispanic Student Organization. Also highlighted was her acceptance into a competitive summer research-training program at the National Institutes of Health and her honors-level research on the regulation of gene expression of the tryptophanase operon with Dr. Luis Cruz-Vera.

Garrett Dunn2TN

Garrett Dunn, a senior double-majoring in biology and chemistry, was also nominated for the honor.

Michael Mercier | UAH

Dunn was singled out for his high-caliber research on the development of molecular genetic test systems with Dr. Leland Cseke, in addition to his participation in such extracurricular organizations as the Alabama Student Rural Health Association, the Medical Careers Club, and the pre-health honor society. Just as noteworthy was his selection as one of only four UAH students to take part in HudsonAlpha's prestigious BioTrain internship program this summer.

Ultimately, however, only one winner could be chosen. "I think Maria's involvement outside of UAH as far as recruiting students from as far away as Puerto Rico and interesting them in the sciences at UAH, and specifically in the biological sciences, was what tipped the scales in her favor," says Dr. Moriarity, pointing out that community involvement was near and dear to Dr. Podila's heart as well.

As for Torres, she says she is "both honored and humbled" at receiving the scholarship. "This award is definitely a huge blessing for me, and I can certainly say that my success at UAH is due in large part to the phenomenal support of my mentors and advisors." No doubt the rest of it comes from her impressive work ethic, something that will serve her well as she continues her journey. "Lord willing," she says, "I plan to attend medical school after graduation!"

***

The Gopi Podila Memorial Scholarship is funded primarily through private donations. Individuals who wish to contribute should contact PBR at scholarships@alpbr.org.


Contact

Dr. Debra Moriarity
moriard@uah.edu
256.824.6260

Diana LaChance
diana.lachance@uah.edu
256.824.6878

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