Two Haverford Students Honored for Excellence in Science by Goldwater Foundation
Since 1989, 21 Haverford students have been recognized by the Barry M. Goldwater Foundation, which awards annual scholarships to outstanding undergraduates planning to pursue careers in science and mathematics. This year, two more names have been added to that list: 2008 Goldwater Scholar Sara Berman '10 and Goldwater Honorable Mention Adolfo Cuesta '10.
Berman has been conducting research since she was 16 years old. She participated in her high school's science research program and worked in the New York University (NYU) Nelson Institute of Environmental Medicine the summers preceding her junior and senior years. There, she developed an original research project, looking at a small molecule inhibitor that caused programmed cell death in breast cancer cells but not in non-tumor-producing culture cells.“The goal was to look at more selective cancer treatments,” she says,“so that hopefully in the future, treatments with fewer side effects could be proposed.”
“I greatly enjoy doing research,” she says,“because it allows me to have a hands-on, real-world experience with science that interests and amazes me.”
Last summer, Berman was an intern in the brain imaging lab of the child psychiatry department at the New York State Psychiatric Institute of Columbia University. She assisted with projects examining possible brain structural causes of psychological pathologies such as depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder.“This internship experience cemented the fact that I would like to study neuroscience and possibly pursue a career in this field,” says Berman, who recently declared a biology major with a neural and behavioral sciences concentration.“The Goldwater will allow me to pursue my interest in neuroscience research, which I am very excited about.”
This summer, Berman will indulge her interest in the brain's molecular manifestations, working with Assistant Professor of Biology Andrea Morris.“I'll be investigating the role of signaling molecules and pathways in axon guidance and target recognition,” she says.“The hope is that axonal components of neurons will be able to be induced to develop beyond their critical period, as under normal conditions, neurons rarely enter the cell cycle after embryonic development.” Ultimately, Berman hopes that this research could address the issue of faulty or missing neural connections in such diseases as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
Like Berman, Cuesta also became involved with scientific research at an early age, spending his high school summers working in laboratories at places such as Temple University, the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) in Bethesda, Md., and the University of Washington in Seattle. At Haverford, he has been assisting Professor of Biology and Associate Provost Phil Meneely in studying the genetic components of chromosome pairing during meiosis, which underlies the production of sperm and egg cells.
“Defects in chromosome pairing can lead to human diseases such as Down's Syndrome and Klinefelter's Syndrome,” says Cuesta.“A better understanding of the molecular mechanisms of chromosome pairing is as a result necessary in order to better understand the underlying cause for human aneuploidy [a change in the number of chromosomes that can lead to abnormalities].”
Cuesta most enjoys the intellectual challenge and excitement of scientific exploration.“Doing research is like doing a good puzzle,” he says.“It enthralls me, captivates my attention and thus motivates me to follow the experiment through to the end.” He will be at the University of Texas at Southwestern in Dallas this summer, working in a cancer research lab that investigates oxygen dependent pathways in clear type renal cell carcinomas.