Rashid Receives Prestigious Goldwater Scholarship

Alina Rashid conducting research on how the human nervous system responds to stress at Rutgers University. Credits: Chet Jagannathan

EDISON, N.J. – The prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship was recently awarded to Rutgers junior Alina Rashid a 2011 graduate from J. P. Stevens High School. Rashid was one of three Rutgers juniors to have received the award for excellence in mathematics, science and engineering.

Rashid attends the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers and is studying how nerve cells reshape themselves when stressed.  Her research may help scientists learn more about how the human nervous system responds to stress. Working with microscopic worms, she observes how cells that process and transmit signals in the worm’s nervous system dramatically reshape themselves under stress. She and her collaborators have also found genetic mutations that can disrupt this reshaping process, where fine branches form along parts of the cell that receive signals from other nerve cells.

Rashid first studied genetic mutations and their DNA sequences in advanced placement biology at John P. Stevens High School. She started working with Maureen Barr, professor of genetics, after taking an introduction to research class during her first year at Rutgers. She is the first member of her family to pursue a scientific field.

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“My family has been supportive,” Rashid said. “They are excited and happy that I got this scholarship.” In addition to research and studies, she is treasurer of the Association of Undergraduate Geneticists, a student group that hosts talks by professionals and raises funds for foundations that support research and treatment of genetic disorders. Rashid plans to pursue doctoral studies in genetics or neurobiology after graduating from Rutgers, and then a research career.

The Goldwater Scholars were selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1,166 mathematics, science, and engineering students who were nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities nationwide. The scholarships cover educational expenses up to $7,500 per year for each winner’s remaining one or two years of college.

Goldwater Scholars have very impressive academic qualifications that have garnered the attention of prestigious post-graduate fellowship programs. Recent Goldwater Scholars have been awarded Rhodes Scholarships, Marshall Awards, Churchill Scholarships, and numerous other distinguished fellowships such as the National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowships.

The Goldwater foundation is a federally endowed agency established by public law in 1986. The scholarship program honoring the late U.S. Sen. Barry M. Goldwater was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering. It is regarded as the premier undergraduate award of its type in these fields.

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