The MCB department had several outstanding candidates for the Danny Brower Memorial Scholarship. Two scholarhips were awarded in December and both exemplify the criteria set forth for the Scholarship.
Hiromi Fukuzaki (MCB, Biochem, ’19) heard about the Danny Brower scholarship her junior year in college, but didn’t apply because she didn’t think she qualified. Fukuzaki is now in her last year at UA, and saw that the annual scholarship was open again for applications. This time, she did more research, and realized that her goals and passions are exactly what Dr. Danny Brower supported and would have wanted to see in students. She applied, got a recommendation from Dr. Zarnescu and found out last month that she was one of two Danny Brower scholarship winners. “I love that Michael Jordan quote ‘You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take’ ” she told me. She didn’t expect to win it because she knew many students would be applying, but she also knew she wouldn’t get it if she didn’t apply.
MCB awards one or two Danny Brower Memorial Scholarships every year. The scholarship has been established by the department of Molecular and Cellular Biology in the College of Science to honor the professional accomplishments of Danny Brower, Professor and scientist for over 25 years at the University of Arizona. Danny took great joy in watching young students become captivated with scientific research, both in the laboratory and the classroom. In Danny’s first year as an undergraduate at Stanford, he was enrolled in naval ROTC to help finance his education. He soon discovered that there were other ways to fund his interest in biology. Consequently, Danny was happy to provide research opportunities in his lab for numerous undergraduates and would be thrilled to know that this scholarship will help keep young scientists in the laboratory. In addition to his many contributions to undergraduate education, Danny was widely recognized as an accomplished scientist and academician, as demonstrated by his numerous publications and service as the Head of Molecular and Cellular Biology.
Brower would have enjoyed meeting Fukuzaki. “Hiromi is dedicated and curious. She is smart, has strong technical skills, and she is like a sponge, eager to absorb information. These are all indications that she will make a terrific researcher, or if she chooses to take the medical school route, a physician with critical thinking skills” Dr. Daniela Zarnescu shared about Hiromi. In Spring 2018, Hiromi signed up for research credit and has committed to spending 10 hours per week in Zarnescu’s lab. Fukuzaki has been characterizing recombinant Drosophila lines by western blot and PCR to confirm the presence of the transgenes of interest. These lines are the basis for an innovative genetic screen that she plans to perform under a grad student’s guidance. This screen will allow Zarnescu’s team to test some critical hypotheses in the ALS field, determine the contribution of glia and neurons to degeneration and identify potential therapeutic targets for this devastating disease.
Winning the Danny Brower scholarship was an honor for Fukuzaki. “I have talked to people about Danny Brower and read about him and everything was positive. He cared about students so much. He was passionate about learning and understanding what the world was about and how he could benefit the world. That really resonates with me”. Danny would have agreed. She not only loves science and learning, but is passionate about outreach and service. Fukuzaki is a member of the Biochem Club, and helps out with a summer camp, whose goal is to get middle school students involved in science. She also volunteers at UA Banner Health in the Child Life Department, providing hospitalized children with comfort and support.
Fukuzaki has one more semester at UA and plans to continue her education, towards an MD or PhD. She is applying to postbac programs that are medically related. “I don’t have a specific area I’m thinking about; I love to learn about everything!”
When Bennett Van Camp (MCB, Biochem, ’20) read about Brower to decide if he would apply for the scholarship, Van Camp learned that Brower’s mission of undergraduate students getting involved in research was something he agreed with. “He had a passion for getting undergraduate students to spend time in the lab.”
When asked why he chose the University of Arizona, Van Camp noted that both of his parents are alumni, and he liked the science programs offered at the UA. He chose MCB because “I fell in love with the faculty and culture of MCB. The thing that got me into research was talking to my MCB professors. I enjoy what I am learning here and I enjoy the people.”
Van Camp is part of the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Consortium (UROC)-PREP, which is a year-round undergraduate research and mentoring program for students who come from backgrounds underrepresented in graduate education and have interest in pursuing a research oriented graduate degree at UA. Van Camp just started this program and is impressed so far with the resources that are available to him through UROC to help him prepare for graduate school.
Van Camp is a regular in research labs. He started working in Dr. Lisa Nagy’s lab during his sophomore year working on using Gateway cloning to study the spaciotemporal expression of various genes in the Tribolium segmentation clock. Van Camp enjoys research so much that this semester, he also started working in Dr. George Sutphin’s lab. He will be using RNAi and CRISPR to study different parts of the kynurenine pathway which has been associated with several neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
When I asked what Dr. Brower would advise Van Camp if they had met, he told me “I think Dr. Brower would say to me to keep an active and curious mind and learn all I can.”
Van Camp is looking forward to his last three semesters of undergraduate work and is appreciative of the financial helps the scholarship provides. “I was very excited! I have to put myself through college and this really helps to lighten the stress!”
Dr. Brower would have been pleased with the selection of this year’s winners of the scholarship he inspired.