Marie Spong ’01 garners Howard Hughes Fellowship
Marie Spong ’01, from Overland Park, Kansas, had her choice of graduate fellowships. Currently pursuing graduate studies in chemistry and chemical biology at Harvard University, she opted for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Predoctoral Fellowship in the Biological Sciences.
This award is designed to promote excellence in biomedical research by supporting promising prospective researchers working toward understanding basic biological processes and disease mechanisms. The foundation awards 80 fellowships annually.
Each offers a stipend of $21,000 plus an additional $13,500 to cover tuition and is renewable for up to five years.
“Marie is one of the brightest and most motivated students I’ve ever worked with at Lewis & Clark or at any other college I’ve been associated with,” says James Duncan, professor of chemistry. “She quite clearly has extraordinary potential for an out-standing career in science.”
While at Lewis & Clark, Spong worked with Duncan using computational chemistry in the theoretical study of organic compound reactions that had not been previously calculated. Her interests, however, lie more in the area of bioorganic chemistry and molecular biology. Consequently, she has shifted her research focus at Harvard to DNA and cellular protein studies.
One protein Spong is currently analyzing appears during apoptosis, the process by which a cell actively commits suicide. Spong overproduces and purifies large quantities of that protein and grows crystals from it to analyze its structure. Scientists now believe that failing to properly regulate apoptosis can have catastrophic consequences, such as cancer, AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, heart attacks, and strokes.
—by Pattie Pace and Jean Kempe-Ware