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April 8, 2004

   

TWO BRYN MAWR JUNIORS NAMED GOLDWATER SCHOLARS

Kirbi Krisfalusi
Kirbi Krisfalusi

Two Bryn Mawr juniors, Kirbi Krisfalusi and Cordelia Stearns, have been named Barry M. Goldwater Scholars for the 2004–05 academic year. Krisfalusi, a chemistry major, and Stearns, a biology major with a concentration in neural and behavioral sciences, are among 310 science, mathematics and engineering students from around the nation who were so honored. The Barry M. Goldwater Foundation was established by Congress in 1986 to ensure a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians and engineers by awarding scholarships to college students who intend to pursue careers in these fields.

Stearns and Krisfalusi were selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1,113 students who were nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities nationwide. Each Goldwater Scholarship pays $7,500 toward tuition, room and board. Both Stearns and Krisfalusi plan to pursue doctoral degrees in science.

Krisfalusi, who is enrolled in Bryn Mawr's A.B/M.A. program, plans to enter a Ph.D. program in organic chemistry; her long-term goal is to combine teaching and research in an academic position. Her research interest, she says, is physical organic chemistry.

"Instead of just making new molecules, I want to investigate the principles governing how they're made, how they stick together, what they look like in 3-D space and how they interact," Krisfalusi explains.

At Bryn Mawr, Krisfalusi is pursuing a two-year research project synthesizing a new type of molecule. "In order to do that," she says, "I've had to solve a couple of problems that have never been encountered before."

Under the supervision of Professor of Chemistry Frank Mallory, Krisfalusi is working on the synthesis of a type of molecule that could eventually become the basis of an ultralight electrical conductor or "molecular wire." She started the project last summer with a research fellowship funded by Bryn Mawr College and continued to do supervised research as coursework throughout the 2003–04 academic year. This summer, one of the College's Dorothy Nepper Marshall Fellowships will provide continuing funding for the project, and she will continue to research and write her master's thesis about the project next year.

Cordelia Stearns
Cordelia Stearns

Stearns hopes to enter an M.D./Ph.D. program in neuroscience, which would enable her to do clinical as well as laboratory research into the neurological bases of mood and anxiety disorders. Having started college as a voice major at the New England Conservatory of Music, Stearns became interested in medicine after illness forced her to withdraw from school.

"While I recovered, I decided that I wanted to do something that could help people more directly," Stearns said. "I think a place like Bryn Mawr, with a broad liberal-arts curriculum, is great because it opens up a lot of possibilities. When you're introduced to a lot of different fields, it’s easier to find the work that you really love."

Stearns is especially interested in researching mood and anxiety disorders that are induced by agents about which a good deal is known. Last summer, she served an internship in the neuropsychopharmacology department at Albert Einstein Hospital in New York, funded by Haverford College’s Gertrude Heller Grant, which is available to both Haverford and Bryn Mawr students. Her work focused on determining whether rats would make a good animal model for depression induced by interferon, a drug used to treat hepatitis C. Interferon causes depression in 40 percent to 60 percent of the patients who take it, Stearns says.

"We know a lot about how interferon works," she explains. "Comparing this with other kinds of depression may help us narrow causes to specific hormones or genes."

This summer, Stearns will participate in the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine's Summer Undergraduate Research Program, where she hopes to do research that she can incorporate into her thesis research, which will be supervised by Professor of Biology Karen Greif.

 

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