Biochemistry Major Earns Novartis Scholarship

Thursday, December 3, 2009

After two-and-a-half years of studying at the International Sakharov Environmental University in her native homeland of Belarus, Hanna Budayeva transferred to Rider University for greater research opportunities.

“I just love scientific research. I couldn’t find an opportunity to conduct undergraduate research in Belarus,” said Budayeva, whose family still lives in the Eastern European nation. “When I came to America, everything was in front of me and I could grab it. Rider gave me so many opportunities to conduct research.”

Now a senior Biochemistry major, Budayeva recently landed another opportunity that will put her one step closer to obtaining her dream of a career in biomedical research. Recently, she was one of just eight students awarded a Novartis Science Scholarship through the Independent College Fund of New Jersey. The award is administered annually to science students from private universities who possess a minimum grade point average of 3.5 or better and conduct independent scientific research.

“The scholarship gives me the opportunity to continue my research here at Rider,” she said. “I felt empowered. I gained a lot of confidence in myself. This is why I am entering my research in the University’s poster session in the spring.”

This past summer, Budayeva started working in Dr. Bryan Spiegelberg’s research lab after taking his Biochemistry II: Advanced Cellular and Molecular Biology course in the spring. Budayeva said she asked to work in his lab because she enjoyed his class and the group project based on protein purification and analysis.

As part of the research, Budayeva will study interactions between G proteins, which carry biological signals within cells, and enzymes that regulate the transcription of genes. This interaction is important to understand because a mutation of G proteins could cause cancer or other diseases such as diabetes, blindness or depression.

“This research gives me an opportunity to apply knowledge and allows an outlet for more creativity,” Budayeva said.

Spiegelberg, assistant professor of Chemistry, Biochemistry and Physics, said Budayeva is extremely intelligent and exhibits the determination and strong organizational and experimental skills needed in the field of chemistry and molecular biology.

“Hanna’s performance this summer in my lab has cemented my belief that she will be an outstanding graduate student and a successful biomedical researcher,” Spiegelberg wrote in a letter of recommendation. “In observing Hanna’s progress in the lab, my impression is that she is surprisingly mature with respect to experimental technique and the use of scientific literature. Her motivation will serve her well in her future pursuits.”

Spiegelberg said he expects that Budayeva will present her work in poster format at a national conference, possibly the large Experimental Biology conference in Anaheim, Calif., in April 2010. He also predicts that her work will eventually be published in a biochemical journal.

In November, Budayeva was recognized as an Andrew J. Rider Scholar at Founder’s Day. The award, named for the founder and first president of the institution, honors the top one percent, according to grade point average, of sophomores, juniors and seniors from Rider’s six colleges and schools. She is also a member of Gamma Sigma Epsilon, a national chemistry honor society.

In the future, Budayeva plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and continue conducting biomedical research, particularly in the field of oncology.

“The most fascinating part about research is to be able to discover mechanisms that are behind leading causes of human diseases,” she said.

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