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Rosalie Sowers awarded a Goldwater Scholarship from the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation

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September 4, 2018 - Rosalie Sowers, a senior undergraduate student double majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology (BMB) as well as computer science, has been awarded a Goldwater Scholarship from the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation. The scholarship is among the most competitive honors in the country for undergraduates in the sciences and mathematics fields. The foundation awards 300 students from across the country with the $7,500 scholarship each year.

The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation was established by Congress in 1986 to serve as a living memorial to honor the lifetime work of Senator Barry Goldwater, who served his country for 56 years as both a soldier and a statesman, including 30 years in the U.S. Senate. The Goldwater Scholarship helps ensure that the U.S. is producing highly-qualified professionals that the nation needs in the fields of natural sciences, mathematics and engineering. Over its 30 year history, thousands of undergraduates have received scholarships, many of whom have gone on to win other prestigious awards like the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Fellowship, Rhodes scholarship, Churchill Scholarship and the National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship.

Rosie Sowers Goldwater 1

Sowers, a State College native, always had an interest in mathematics and science thanks to her parents whom exposed her early and frequently to science. However, it was not until high school, when an opportunity to work in an entomology lab at Penn State presented itself, that Sowers took her first major step toward a career in science. Even an initial fear of bugs did not keep her from enjoying this first research experience.

As an undergraduate at Penn State, Sowers quickly found her next opportunity to further her research experience by applying for the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology department's independent research program for undergraduates (BMB 496), which allows students to work in faculty laboratories and develop their own research projects. After interviewing and speaking with Dr. Song Tan, it was clear that his lab was the best fit for her.

Rosie Sowers Goldwater 4The Tan Lab seeks to understand how genes are turned on and off, which is fundamental to how both healthy and diseased cells function. In particular, the lab is interested in understanding how gene regulation molecules interact with our DNA (genetic information) packaged into chromatin. The lab uses structural biology methods such as crystallography and cryo-electron microscopy to visualize these gene regulation chromatin complexes.

Sowers’ research within the Tan Lab focuses on how a leukemia-related complex binds to the nucleosome unit of chromatin. Her goal is to understand the molecular mechanism of this complex through structural approaches.

 

 

The opportunities and experiences that Sowers has taken advantage of are not just limited to her work in the Tan Lab. In addition to conducting her research in the Tan Lab throughout the academic year, she has also completed a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at Michigan State. In addition, using what she has learned as a computer science major, Sowers interned as a software engineer at Google during summer 2017 and at Knewton (a NYC-based educational technologies company) during summer 2018.

Dr. Tan was glowing in his praise for Sowers “She’s everything that makes it joyful to come into work and interact with students. She’s quick, she’s smart, but she also works really hard. She combines tenacity with a brilliant mind”, said Dr. Tan.

Sowers plans to combine her interests in biomedicine and computer science to pursue graduate studies in computational biology. Her goal is to use computational approaches to solve problems impacting human health.