UR junior Kofi Mensah was recently named the recipient of the UNCF-Merck Undergraduate Science Research Scholarship. The scholarship, part of a joint effort between the United Negro College Fund and the Merck Research Laboratories, provides the winner with $25,000 toward tuition, two paid summer internships at a Merck facility and mentoring from a Merck scientist.

“This is a great achievement for Mensah and the UR,” Belinda Redden, Fellowships Coordinator for the College Center for Academic Support said.

Only 15 undergraduate Fellows are named annually, in a nationwide competition pool.

“Too many of our students don’t believe they can really compete nationally against applicants from other schools such as the Ivies and larger research universities,” Redden said. “Kofi Mensah proves them wrong.”

Mensah, a microbiology and immunology major and REMS student, was surprised and pleased to learn of his winning the award.

“I was very elated,” he said. “In the letter [notifying me], they said the competition was exceptionally stiff. I felt it was a great accomplishment to come out ahead of the competition.”

In addition, $10,000 is given to the student’s major department, with specifications from Merck that it go toward faculty research.

The scholarship is open to African-American juniors attending a four-year college or university. The student must currently have a minimum GPA of 3.3, and be pursuing a degree in the life and physical sciences. Students are selected for the award based on academic achievement, laboratory ability and a desire to be in the field of biomedical research as a career aspiration.

Recipients of the scholarship have the opportunity to work at a Merck facility as interns alongside other scholarship winners to get hands on experience.

“I’m looking forward to meeting the other fellows,” Mensah said.Mensah has future career plans as a physician, and plans on enrolling in an M.D. Ph. D. program following graduation.

“I figured it’s a good way to get more research experience,” he said.

The microbiology department supports Mensah in his endeavors, and hopes the scholarship will contribute to students’ advancement for the future in much needed areas of medicine.

“We in the Medical Center are indeed pleased [Mensah] has chosen microbiology and immunology for his B.S. track major, especially now that the need is increasingly acute for our best students to take on the challenges posed by national and global problems of infectious and immunologic diseases,” Robert Marquis, Mensah’s adviser and professor of microbiology and immunology said.

A committee comprised of Merck scientists and various educators makes the decision regarding the recipients of the awards.

Normally, students are notified in early March each year, however, Mensah was notified of his achievement on Feb. 7.

Other supporters of Mensah believe this will only be a start in a long and successful career in the biological sciences, and are confident Mensah will be an invaluable contributor to the medical community.

“It doesn’t surprise me that Kofi has begun to accumulate important awards,” Professor of Biology David Goldfarb said. “I can’t wait to hear about his exploits 10-15 years down the road.”

Students are encouraged to apply to fellowships, as there are numerous academic competitions many students are eligible for, and many of which include large monetary awards.

For more information about fellowship opportunities, visit the fellowships page of the Academic Support Web site at http://www.rochester.edu/College/CCAS/fellowships.html or stop by the Academic Support office in Lattimore 312.

Linden can be reached at klinden@campustimes.org.



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