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Senior Wins Award at National Conference

Berea College senior Ni Ji, a native of Nanjing, China, has been recognized for her research work by receiving an award at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students in Anaheim, Calif. The conference took place in November 2006.

Ni Ji poses with her poster at the Annual Biomedical Conference for Minority Students.

The conference is in its sixth year and is supported through a grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. This year there were more than 1,600 students in attendance. Its purpose is to encourage minorities to seek biomedical and behavioral sciences training and to provide faculty mentors and advisors with needed resources.

Ji’s research involved the development of cell-type and tissue-specific transgenic mouse models for the study of drug addiction. “I chose to do research in neuroscience because I was most intrigued to learn how the human mind works,” the senior said. “I want to know the physical basis that gives rise to a huge variety of different personalities and meanwhile the universal human desires and emotions.”

For her conference presentation, the accomplished young woman spoke with faculty attendees and other students about her research for 90 minutes, discussing and exchanging ideas with them while using a poster as a visual aid.

The young scientist gives credit to Berea College faculty Dr. Ron Rosen and Dr. Dawn Anderson in the biology department and Dr. Amer Lahamer and Dr. Kingshuk Majumdar in the physics department for playing “critical roles” in her personal and academic growth. “Not only did these professors guide me through my academic endeavors, they have also offered me invaluable advice.”

Anderson reports that Ji participated in a summer research program in 2006 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the lab of Dr. Susumu Tonegawa, a Nobel Prize recipient. Tonegawa asked Ji to present her findings at the California conference, which she was able to attend with assistance from BC’s Discovery Fund and the Provost’s Office.
Berea College science faculty requires students to conduct independent research beginning in their freshman year. “We have tried to design these research experiences not only to help them develop their knowledge and research skills in particular areas of biology, but also to prepare students for scientific research in graduate/professional school and beyond,” explains Anderson.

In addition to MIT, Ji has also done off-campus undergraduate research at the University of Kentucky and at the Mayo Clinic College in Minnesota. She is currently doing an internship during short term at the California Institute of Technology.

“Ni is an enthusiastic and dedicated student and a wonderful young woman …. She exemplifies all the best that a Berea student can be. We are very proud of her and all she has accomplished,” remarked Anderson, noting that Ji has also won awards at the Kentucky Academy of Sciences Annual Meeting in undergraduate research competitions.

Rosen is also proud of his student’s success. “Ni has applied to the top graduate schools in the country … to continue her education next year and I have little doubt that she will be accepted into a doctoral program by many of these schools. She is one of the most accomplished yet humble students we have had in the biology department since I arrived in 1989."

The senior confirms that she is currently working on getting into a top quality graduate school to study biomedical science. Her career goal is to become a faculty researcher at a university and continue delving into the human mind. “While the working mechanism of the human brain is extremely complicated and may take more than a lifetime to uncover, it is my hope that I will be able to help [in] pushing the field forward through my future research. The thing I love about science is that … you are constantly exploring something new and there are always chances for a great discovery.”

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