The countless hours devoted to schoolwork over the past few years literally paid off for Ashley Stewart MB’15, as she was recently named as one of 15 recipients of the United Negro College Fund’s Merck Science Research Scholarship Award for next school year.
“Research is dynamic because there’s more to learn every day, and the role of a researcher is to keep digging,” said Stewart. “You can never keep up with the amount of knowledge in the world, and I love that."
From a young age, Stewart knew she would someday pursue a career in scientific research after she received a science book as a gift. Her interest in science, particularly biology, continued to flourish as she learned more about the subject throughout her elementary, middle, and high school years. Stewart said her curiosity centers on the smallest pieces of science, which led her to major in microbiology
“The small molecules that seem so insignificant on their own, have an incredible part in everything that makes this world work, and that is extremely fascinating to me,” she said.
Each year, the highly competitive UNCF/Merck tuition scholarship is open to African American students enrolled in a science or engineering program at any four-year college in the U.S. Winners are selected based on their interest in scientific research, as well as their ability to perform in a laboratory setting.
In her study, “Blood Sensors: Development of Biosensors for the Measurement of Factor Xa and Thrombin Concentrations in Blood,” Stewart worked to advance diagnostic testing methods by creating a protein-based “detector” that can directly assess clotting measures in a patient’s blood. Peter B. Berget, PhD,
chair of the Department of Biological Sciences
served as her research advisor for the project.
Stewart also regularly presents her research at the USciences Accepted Student Days to give prospective students and their families the opportunity to explore the University’s high quality of student research projects. After all, she said her decision to attend USciences was made the instant she witnessed students’ practical lab experience, a rare academic opportunity for undergraduates in the field.
Through various faculty mentorships, Stewart said she appreciates the advice and guidance she has received to help her succeed as a microbiologist.
“Over the year, I have grown to admire my professors’ intelligence and shared passion for research,” she said. “I deeply appreciate the work that Dr. Berget has put into teaching me the skills to become a successful researcher. I would not have received the internship or scholarship if it were not for his abundant help and guidance.”
This summer, Stewart will put her education to use in a microbiology lab as an intern at GlaxoSmithKline. She looks forward to graduate school and is considering both industry and academics for her future in molecular biology.