Nina Kogekar '13 has been awarded the American Society for Microbiology's (ASM) Undergraduate Research Fellowship. Kogekar, a biology major and chemistry minor from Danbury, Ct., is the most recent in a long line of Swarthmore students to receive this accolade from the ASM.
"It's a great opportunity," says Kogekar. "I am especially looking forward to attending the 113th ASM General Meeting next year, where I'll have the chance to learn more about current research in microbiology." As part of the fellowship, she will receive $1000 for travel expenses, allowing her to present her findings at the 2013 ASM General Meeting. Nina will also receive a two-year student membership to the ASM, as well as a stipend of $2000 from the ASM and $2350 from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to continue her research this summer.
Nina's original research focuses on isolating and characterizing bacteria that break down fungicides. Primary investigator and Nina's faculty mentor, Professor of Biology Amy Cheng Vollmer, likens the mechanism of microbial degradation to a simpler process. By considering the section of the fungicide that has been consumed as a "bite out of a sandwich," researchers are able to characterize the process by which the microbes deconstruct the fungicide. The project is a collaborative effort between Vollmer's lab in the Biology Department and Alison Holliday's laboratory in the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department. "Nina has made it look very simple," explained Vollmer, "but has worked very hard. She has been diligent and dogged throughout the research process."
Vollmer also attributes Nina's success, along with her scientific aptitude and work ethic, to the academic environment at Swarthmore. Being a small, liberal arts college ensures students receive active mentoring in lab settings. This characteristic, in addition to the high regard for Swarthmore faculty within the scientific community, has led to multiple Swarthmore students receiving ASM and similar fellowships.