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Hillcrest Scholarships

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Hillcrest Scholarship Recipients

Class of 2015
Research Award

Joseph BalsamoJoseph Balsamo, Biology
"Exploring Signaling Mechanisms in the Developing Nervous System"

Complications of the auditory system are one of the leading healthcare problems in the US. Research within Gabriele laboratory at JMU has shown that a family of receptor tyrosine kinases known as Eph-ephrins plays a substantial role in determining auditory synapses. Studies have also indicated that Eph-ephrins form synapses based on complex concentration gradients within individual auditory centers of the brain. To better understand these gradients, the proposal offers an opportunity to develop microfluidic chambers in the Deppmann laboratory at the University of Virginia.

Faculty Mentor: Mark Gabriele, Biology

Service/Leadership Award

Caitlin McAvoyCaitlin McAvoy, Theater & Dance
"Bringing Dance to the Girls Who Need It Most"

This dance program is a two-week session under my teaching and direction for the physically and mentally disabled girls of Deborah House in Timisoara, Romania. The session will conclude with a final dance performance for the other girls of Deborah House, the leaders of Deborah House, and local members of the community.

Faculty Mentor: Kate Arrecchi, Theater & Dance

Global Studies Award

Emily ThyroffEmily Thyroff, Biology
"Rainforest Ecology Studies in Australia"

The proposed project is to participate in Rainforest Ecology Studies in Cairns, Australia through the School for Field Studies. The program's goal is to further research on rainforest ecosystem dynamics to restore rainforests after they have been destroyed. I will be taking 16 credit hours and answering a biological question that is complimentary to research on ginseng restoration in Appalachia. 

Faculty Mentor: Heather Griscom, Biology

Congratulations also go to the finalists:

  • Research: Lauren Distler, Courtney Matson
  • Service & Leadership: Morgan Pate

Class of 2014
Research Award

Carly Starke, Biotechnology

Carly StarkeSalmonella enterica serovar Typhi is the main cause of typhoid fever; Salmonella species cannot survive below pH 4. My proposal involves working at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to engineer a vaccine vector as a wafer format to survive a low pH, within the oral cavity and gastro-intestinal tract, allowing a reduction in the doses required for long-lasting, high efficacy immunity. This will be done by cloning genes involved in the acid resistance pathway of the bacterium Shigella into Salmonella. Acid resistance in these strains will be assessed compared to the parent strain at pH 1.5 to 5 over 3 hours and these acid resistance genes will be inserted into the Salmonella chromosome.

Service & Leadership Award

Michelle Amaya, Health Sciences

Michelle AmayaMy project proposal is intended to help me engage in a service-leadership global health immersion program called Pediatric and Adolescent Health Care. This project is to take place in La Paz, Bolivia working through Child Family Health International, an NGO. My first step will be to receive training as a Certified Nursing Assistant through the BonSecours Nurse Aide Training Program at DePaul Medical Center in Norfolk, Virginia. Following this training, I will deepen my commitment to service by engaging in a clinical rotation program through Child Family Health International, serving impoverished and at-risk children and adolescents of La Paz, Bolivia.

Congratulations also go to the finalists:

  • Research: Tate Burkholder, Michael Partin, Adam White
  • Service & Leadership: Victoria Awadalla, Brendan English