Two third-year students who share the goal of earning an MD and PhD have been awarded Goldwater scholarships.
Zachary Kloos, who is majoring in biochemistry and economics, and Caitlin Powell, who is studying biomedical engineering, received the awards, which are named for former U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater. The scholarships recognize outstanding potential and commitment to excellence in science, engineering and mathematics.
Powell, from Cranberry Township, Pa., was 6 when she told her parents she wanted to find a cure for cancer. At 12, she decided she wanted to become a biomedical engineer.
She plans to earn her PhD in biomedical engineering and to research and develop new drug delivery and tissue engineering therapies to treat cancer. She intends to combine laboratory research and medical practice to aid in the fight against the disease.
She currently works with Oju Jeon, a postdoctoral researcher, in the lab of Biomedical Engineering Professor Eben Alsberg. They are developing a hydrogel that can be formed with ultraviolet light for use as a scaffolding to guide cellular repair of tissue and to deliver chemicals and drugs to cells at controlled rates for disease therapeutics and regenerative medicine. Prior to working in Alsberg's lab, Powell worked at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, tracking the expression of muscle tissue proteins in the fetal heart at different stages of development.
"The skills that I have learned in the lab and the principles used in biomaterials, tissue engineering, and drug delivery will help me when I go on to graduate/medical school and ultimately, when I do my own research years down the road," Powell said. "I’m very lucky to have the opportunity to conduct so much research at such a young age and early stage in my career. "
Powell is a member of the Alpha Eta Mu Beta Biomedical Engineering Honors Society, Gamma Sigma Alpha Greek Scholastic Honors Society, Mortar Board National Honors Society and membership chair of Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honors Society; and a recipient of several research fellowships and scholarships.
She's currently musical director of Solstice Women's A Cappella, the university's by-audition women's a cappella group; a director at Delta Gamma fraternity; vice president for finance of the Panhellenic Council; and a member of the Case Footlighters, which puts on student-run musicals.
She will use the scholarship to help pay for next year's tuition. "I have a lot a big dreams," Powell said, "and receiving this award makes me feel like I am making the first steps down the path to making those goals a reality."
Kloos, from Columbus, plans to earn a PhD in immunology, conduct infectious disease research in developing countries and become a policy advisor to the World Health Organization.
Working in a lab at Ohio State University as a high school student, Kloos investigated drug delivery systems to treat complications from spinal cord injury. In the lab of Peter Zimmerman, at CWRU’s Center for Global Health and Diseases, he’s helped develop an assay that allows for simultaneous detection of infection by the four human malaria parasites, as well as a filarial worm that causes lymphatic filariasis, commonly called elephantiasis. Kloos has verified the sensitivity and specificity of this assay by analyzing blood samples from 2,700 residents of Papua New Guinea.
The assay will allow for more accurate surveillance of malarial and filarial infection in affected populations. Next, Kloos will examine the extent of genetic variation in the filarial worm, Wuchereria bancrofti (Wb). "Understanding the genetic factors that differentiate Wb strains could greatly improve the efficacy of programs aimed at controlling and preventing Wb infection," he said.
In pursuit of his second major, Kloos has served as a research assistant to Silvia Prina, assistant professor of economics. He spent last summer helping Prina design and implement a microsavings program targeted to poor women in Nepal. During his stay, Kloos saw the need for investment in early childhood education. Upon returning to the U.S., he and a group of his friends canvassed for donations and initiated an aluminum can collection program on campus, raising more than $4,000 to build a kindergarten in a Nepali village. While visiting Nepal, he was also deeply affected by reports of a local cholera outbreak that killed more than 200 people, reinforcing his desire to become involved in infectious disease research.
He will use the scholarship to pay for tuition and views the award as a "call to action or beginning," not a reward for work done. Outside of classes and research, Kloos is a member of the Case Western Reserve Squash Club.
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