Undergraduate student researchers nominated for highly competitive STEM scholarship

Posted at 12:17 PM, Nov 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-10 12:17:41-05

Michigan State University has nominated two of its outstanding undergraduate students for the Churchill Scholarship – a nationally competitive science, technology, engineering and mathematics award that pays for graduate school in the United Kingdom.

MSU’s nominees are Rebecca Carlson, an Honors College senior majoring in chemical engineering from the College of Engineering, and Alana O’Mara, an Honors College senior majoring in neuroscience in Lyman Briggs College.

Established in 1959, the Winston Churchill Foundation’s Scholarship Programoffers 14 American students of exceptional ability and outstanding achievement the opportunity to pursue graduate degrees in engineering, mathematics or the sciences in Churchill College at the University of Cambridge in England.

MSU has produced 18 Churchill Scholars.

“Rebecca and Alana had the opportunity to pursue their research interests at MSU and help push the boundaries of discovery,” said Cynthia Jackson-Elmoore, dean of the MSU Honors College. “We congratulate them both on being nominated for this award.”

Carlson has participated in and led research both on and off MSU’s campus. A 2015 Goldwater Scholar, she is a research assistant in an applied biomolecular engineering lab and also a student ambassador for the Undergraduate Research Office.

Carlson was named an Evergrande Scholar, earning the opportunity the work at Harvard Medical School’s Evergrande Center for Immunologic Diseases. She is also a member of the Red Cedar Undergraduate Research Journal Student Editorial Board.

Carlson is from Rockford and graduated from Rockford Senior High School.

“I hope to use my interdisciplinary training in engineering, computational biology and immunology to better model autoimmune disease onset and progression in different genders and ethnicities as a professor at a major research university,” Carlson said. “I will also focus on mentoring young women in their research careers.”

O’Mara was a member of MSU’s cross-country team for her first three years at MSU, earning Big-Ten Scholar Athlete accolades.

O’Mara volunteers at Parkinson’s Dance Group, a program that uses dance therapy to bring together Parkinson’s patients each month. She was a summer intern for the National Institutes of Health at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, where she researched grant analysis and used social media to enhance awareness of pediatric clinical studies.

O’Mara also interned at a neuroscience lab at MSU, designing experiments to study avian behavior and clone the PSEN1 gene responsible for Alzheimer’s disease.

She is from Bloomfield Hills and graduated from Lahser High School.

“I would like to go on to pursue a medical degree with a focus on research,” O’Mara said. “My goal as a physician-scientist would be to better assess patients’ needs and go on and use that as a basis for my research.”