Campus: CSU Long Beach -- October 09, 2002

Senior Microbiology Major at Cal State Long Beach Selected for 2002 ASM Minority Undergraduate Research Fellowship

Sarah Benson, a 21-year-old senior at California State University, Long Beach, was selected by the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) as a recipient of its 2002 Minority Undergraduate Research Fellowship.

The fellowship is aimed at highly competitive minority undergraduate students who wish to and have demonstrated the ability to pursue graduate careers (Ph.D. or MD/Ph.D.) in microbiology. Fellows have an opportunity to conduct full-time summer research with an ASM mentor and present their research results at the 2003 ASM General Meeting in Washington, D.C. in May.
Benson, a President’s Scholar at Cal State Long Beach, was one of 73 applicants nationwide and one of just 12 recipients. Of the 12 awards, four were given to students from research and doctoral institutions, and seven were awarded to students from masters’ and liberal arts institutions.

“I was very excited when I found out I had won the fellowship,” said Benson, a microbiology major and former National Merit scholar from Pleasanton, Calif. “The research experience was a wonderful, hands-on opportunity, and it was a chance to see what life is like as a graduate student.”

Benson has, in fact, completed the research part of the fellowship. This past summer, she spent nine weeks between June and August at New York University (NYU) in its School of Medicine conducting full-time research with her mentor, NYU’s Dr. Richard Novic, on a project titled “Agr typing and bacterial interference in Staphylococcus aureus.”

“Dr. Novic was my No. 1 choice because he works with staph aureus, which is a bacteria, and I wanted to be in a bacteria lab. So, I was lucky to get my first choice,” Benson noted. “Through the research, we’re trying to figure out a way to characterize different strains of this particular bacteria. It is important because staph aureus (short for staphylococcus aureus) is a really big problem in hospital-acquired infection. So, we’re trying to gain more information regarding agr types in staph aureus and clinical manifestations of staph.”

Benson is looking forward to attending the 2003 ASM General Meeting in May to present her research results. In addition, she enjoyed her research experience so much that she is hoping to continue her graduate studies at NYU after completing her undergraduate degree in May at Cal State Long Beach. She is applying for the graduate program at the Sackler Institute of Biomolecular Medicine at NYU’s School of Medicine.

The American Society for Microbiology, based in Washington, D.C., is the oldest and largest single biological membership organization with more than 40,000 members worldwide. For more information on the fellowship, visit the Web site at:

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