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Robert Mirabello ’25 Receives Goldwater Scholarship

Robert Mirabello ’25

Robert Mirabello ’25 was studying in Cornell Science Library when the highly anticipated email arrived from the Goldwater Foundation.

“I opened it up and saw ‘Congratulations!’, then immediately jumped out of my seat and started high-fiving my somewhat confused friends,” says the biochemistry major from Washington, D.C.

And for good reason. Mirabello is one of just 438 students from around the country to be selected for a Goldwater Scholarship, which provides $7,500 of support to exceptional sophomores and juniors interested in research careers in engineering, mathematics, and the natural sciences.

Being a Goldwater Scholar is the next step toward Mirabello’s pursuit of a Ph.D. in biochemistry. In particular, he is interested in biochemical and genetic research to investigate metabolic pathways and disorders.

“This scholarship gives me confidence that research is a career path where I can find success,” says Mirabello, who plans to hone his research skills through the postbaccalaureate program at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the year between graduating from Swarthmore and applying for graduate school.

Mirabello worked at the NIH last summer, with Orna Cohen-Fix, chief of the lab of biochemistry and genetics. He helped discover the role that a newly described cellular structure, termed the centriculum, plays in cell division.

“In my application essay [for the Goldwater], I tried to convey the excitement I felt throughout the project as well as the significance of the research,” says Mirabello.

With funding from Swarthmore, Mirabello will study the role that certain proteins play in cell division at Oxford University this summer.

“Cell division is such a ubiquitous and fundamental process,” he says, “and yet there are entire structures being discovered in the cell that may influence it in ways we haven't even imagined!”

The Goldwater has been the preeminent award of its kind in these fields for three decades. The foundation recently partnered with the Department of Defense National Defense Education Program to help ensure the U.S. “develops the scientific talent it needs to maintain its global competitiveness and security.”

Mirabello connects his path to the award to the opportunities he had to develop his interests in research at Swarthmore. His first experience, in the Howard Lab, provided a chance to design and conduct experiments. He went on to contribute to projects in biochemistry and genetics with Associate Professor Daniela Fera and Visiting Assistant Professor Timothy DuBuc.

The “tight-knit” nature of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department has been key to his success at Swarthmore, Mirabello says.

“I’ve received a lot of mentorship and support from faculty and my fellow students throughout my time here.”

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