North Central College - Naperville, IL

North Central student earns National Science Foundation Fellowship

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North Central College student Emily Albright of Naperville has earned a prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Fellowship.

The three-year award carries a $30,000 annual stipend and nearly $12,000 in additional funding for educational expenses and travel. Albright, a senior majoring in biochemistry, plans to pursue graduate studies in molecular biology and has been accepted to several top institutions.

Albright was named a 2009 Goldwater Scholar, the highest national undergraduate award for achievement in the natural sciences. She was selected for a summer research program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she researched the mechanisms of DNA repair.

“Emily is one of the brightest young scientists I’ve had the privilege to work with,” says Jonathan Visick, associate professor of biology at North Central. “It is particularly noteworthy that she won this fellowship as a senior, as most recipients are already graduate students. We are certain she will have a bright future in biomedical research.”

Albright’s passion for laboratory research started her first year at North Central. During summer 2007, Albright worked with North Central's Stephen Johnston, Roger and Nadeane Hruby Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences, to investigate yeast cell genetics and cellular growth associated with diseases such as Down syndrome, Alzheimer's and cancer. She presented her work at the 2008 National Conference for Undergraduate Research and the College's 2008 Rall Symposium for Undergraduate Research. They also co-presented their research on yeast cell genetics and regulation of cellular growth at the 2008 Yeast Genetics and Molecular Biology Meeting and the 2007 Midwest Yeast Meeting. Beginning in 2008 she worked with Visick—recipient of a grant from the National Institute on Aging—to support research into protein repair in bacteria and its relationship to aging.

“The opportunities I have had to do research and interact one on one with my professors have had an enormous influence on me,” Albright says. “When it comes to undergraduate research, you can't beat North Central. I think my experiences at North Central have prepared me for graduate school because, in a lot of ways, Dr. Johnston and Dr. Visick have let me be almost like a graduate student. They give fabulous advice and guidance, but they also let me take ownership of my projects. I get to make a lot of decisions and do a lot of thinking. It is real research, not just following instructions from a sheet of paper.”

Albright is a 2006 graduate of Wheaton Academy.

The National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship provides three years of support for graduate study leading to research-based masters or doctoral degrees and is intended for students who are in the early stages of their graduate study. The program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees in the United States and abroad.

The National Science Foundation awarded 1,654 graduate fellowships this year, up from about 1,200 in 2009. President Barack Obama told the National Academy of Sciences in 2009 he would increase funding to triple the number of graduate research fellowships awarded annually. Visit to learn more.