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Fellowship honors Zhang

Rebecca O'Neil | Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Last fall, the 2013 NDnano Undergraduate Research Fellowship (NURF) was dedicated to Saint Mary’s sophomore Ziqi Zhang, who died when she was struck by a car near the College’s entrance in October 2012. This spring, Saint Mary’s junior Rachael Bridgman received the fellowship in Zhang’s memory.

Zhang participated in the NURF program during the summer of 2012, and Bridgman said she “[hopes] to do her name justice.”

 “It is a true honor to be able to continue down the path that Ziqi loved, which was research,” Bridgman said. “I am happy to do this summer job in part on her behalf because this is what she would have done this summer. I have heard only wonderful things about her.”

 Bridgman she said she didn’t know she was under consideration for the fellowship until recipients were announced on April 12.

 “I think I was chosen because I am from Saint Mary›s and also have a great deal of passion for the research I am doing,” she said. “I have also shown a lot of dedication to the lab. I have been working there all year and have put in many hours and come in on the weekends as well to do work.”

 This grant, offered by the University of Notre Dame Center for Nano Science and Technology, provides Bridgman, a molecular cell biology major, with an opportunity to experience her first paid research position this summer.

 “It covers a 10-week research opportunity with [Notre Dame biochemistry professor] Dr. Zach Schultz in his biochemistry lab and weekly seminars with other undergraduate researchers,” Bridgman said.

 The 28 recipients of the award will receive a total of $5,250 for their participation in research this upcoming summer, but Bridgman said she looks forward to benefits beyond the paycheck.

 “I get the chance to explore research as a career and participate in high caliber research,” Bridgman said.

 Bridgman’s unpaid research was driven by a genuine desire to gain a deeper understand of proteins, she said.

 “To be honest I have always been very interested in proteins because they are the building blocks for life after the nucleotides that create them,” Bridgman said. “Single protein detection using probes is useful for a wide range of applications. It has been used to sequence DNA, differentiate between strains of the influenza and analyze movement of molecules across cell membranes in real time. All these applications can lead to medical therapeutic and diagnostic research as well.”

 The undergraduate researchers will present the results of their research at the end of the 10 weeks, she said.

 “I have to do a presentation at a poster session on my work at the end of the summer,” Bridgman said.

 Haley Gordon, a sophomore chemistry and chemical engineering major at Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame, respectively, said Bridgman’s fellowship was well-deserved, and notable because it was given to a Saint Mary’s senior.

“She’s one of the most hardworking students I know,” Gordon said. “She’s incredibly diligent.”

Bridgman said she plans to pursue a career in cancer research and oncology.

Contact Rebecca O’Neil at [email protected]