ASM Undergraduate Research Capstone Program Testimonials

Comments from previous participants:

"I really valued meeting other undergraduates (as well as full professionals) at the Capstone Institute. We connected well and met up with each other throughout the conference. We have even kept in contact since then, and I know that we will be able to call on each other for years to come. I also appreciated that the Capstone Institute helped prepare us for our presentations and for meeting others at the conference. I felt much less nervous about navigating the conference because of this."

"The knowledge/techniques I acquired from the grant writing and networking sessions are invaluable additions to my skill sets. Also, I enjoyed listening and giving constructive feedbacks/criticisms to the undergraduate fellows during the poster-presentation session."

"In comparison to my previous ASM meeting, I felt more comfortable talking to other students, professors and board members. I think the Capstone Institute helped apply my networking and presentation skills easier because the concepts were fresh in my mind."

"The Capstone Institute provided a forum to network with my peers and to connect with professors and graduate students."

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ASM Undergraduate Research Fellowship Testimonials

Articles about past URF Fellows:

Excerpt from the article Fellowship Funds Undergrad’s Research on Biofilms

Fourth-year biology major Adam Fishburn caught the eye of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), which awarded him a $4,000 fellowship to help continue his work with Professor Clarissa Nobile on the study of biofilms, microbial communities that are notoriously resistant to antimicrobial treatments.

“Being chosen as an ASM fellow is an immense honor,” Fishburn said. “It provided me with a stipend to conduct my research over last summer and will also pay for my travel in June to present my research at the ASM General Meeting in Boston in June 2016.”

Fishburn will also receive a two-year ASM student membership and travel expenses to the ASM Undergraduate Research Capstone Program. The fellowship is aimed at highly competitive students who wish to pursue graduate careers in microbiology.

Excerpt from the article Clemson biological sciences student from Greenville receives prestigious research fellowship

Matt Hapstack of Greenville, a biological sciences student at Clemson University, was awarded a prestigious $4,000 fellowship from the American Society of Microbiology (ASM).

The award allowed him to work on a lab research project titled “The effect of stress on protein translation in Entamoeba histolytica,” a deadly single-cell pathogen responsible for 100,000 annual deaths worldwide, mainly by caused by amoebic dysentery.

Hapstack is interested in health care and research. He is studying Entamoeba histolytica, which survives attempts by the host to destroy it, but the underlying mechanisms of escape are not clear. As a first step in addressing this problem, Hapstack examines how the synthesis of the pathogen’s proteins varies during the infection cycle."

Excerpt from the article Penn State student selected as Gates Cambridge Scholar

"Penn State senior Christopher Rae has been selected to receive a prestigious Gates Cambridge Scholarship, a highly sought-after program that allows students from around the world to pursue graduate work at the University of Cambridge.

Rae has worked for two years in the lab of professor Ken Keiler conducting experiments to identify new antibiotics to treat methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. Rae met Keiler as a student in one of his introductory to microbiology labs and was invited to work in Keiler’s lab. Since then, Rae has produced work that helped secure a five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health, and last summer he was one of a handful of U.S students to receive an American Society for Microbiology (ASM) undergraduate research fellowship, which gives students funding to do research at their home institution." 

Excerpt from the article Food science student receives prestigious undergraduate research award

"The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) has selected Ariel Buehler, a food science and technology senior in the University of Tennessee College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, to receive a 2013 ASM Undergraduate Research Fellowship. Buehler is also a member of the 2010 class of Haslam Scholars at the university.

The ASM student research fellowship is awarded to highly competitive students who wish to pursue graduate careers in microbiology. Fellows have the opportunity to conduct full time research at their institution with an ASM mentor."

Excerpt from article Rhodes College student conducts research at St. Jude

"Memphian and Rhodes College rising junior Tina Dao is participating in the 2013 Undergraduate Research Fellowship (URF) Program presented by the American Society for Microbiology (ASM).

Dao is conducting research with Michael Johnson, Ph.D. and Jason Rosch, Ph.D. in the Infectious Diseases Department of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for a minimum of 10 weeks. 
Her research project examines the role of the copper efflux pump and the mechanism of copper-mediated toxicity in Streptococcus pyogenes, which cause strep throat, pneumonia, bacteremia, scarlet fever, pharyngitis, and flesh eating diseases." 

Excerpt from article Summer undergraduate research: Student wins prestigious fellowship from American Society of Microbiology

Kelly Drews of Leesburg, Va., a senior majoring in biological sciences in the College of Science at Virginia Tech, has been awarded a highly competitive Undergraduate Research Fellowship through the American Society for Microbiology.

The fellowship rewards academically gifted students who intend to pursue graduate studies in microbiology. It provides a 10-week summer research stipend as well as travel funds to the 2014 American Society of Microbiology general meeting in Boston.

"I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to work in the Kale Lab at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute," Drews said. "This fellowship will give me the opportunity to further my research without the additional demands of traditional academic school year."

Drews will continue his current research under the mentorship of Shiv Kale, a research faculty member at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute. His research focuses on the trafficking of secreted proteins from the common fungus Aspergillus fumigatus during invasive aspergillosis, which is a growing problem for immunocompromised individuals and solid organ transplant recipients. Successful colonization of human lung tissue leads to the fungus infiltrating the entire organ, resulting in severe morbidity and rapid death.

Excerpt from article Two UNM Students Recipients of the American Society for Microbiology Undergraduate Research Fellowship

"The American Society for Microbiology Undergraduate Research Fellowship has expanded my ability to investigate White Nose Syndrome (WNS) and possible links to other organisms that live on bats," said Young. "This will be my fourth year working with Dr. Northup and Kait (Hughes) and I have greatly enjoyed the experience of caving and working with bat populations here in New Mexico. I am excited by the direction of this project, and I think it will lead to many more discoveries in bats and very much appreciate the honor of receiving this Fellowship.

The title of Hughes' research project is "Bat and Hibernacula Microbiota: Potential Contributions to White Nose Syndrome."

"Being awarded the American Society for Microbiology Undergraduate Research Fellowship has given me the opportunity to continue pursuing my passion for science, while protecting a wonderful animal, bats, from a newly emerging disease, White Nose Syndrome (WNS)," said Hughes. "I've been going in caves since I was 13 and doing research on cave life in Dr. Northup's lab since I was in high school. Working with cave managers across the state to increase awareness about WNS has been a great privilege and I feel as if we are moving in the right direction to protect the bats and enjoy the caves. This ASM award is also opening new doors for me into the field of infectious disease agents." 

Comments from previous Fellows about the URF program:

“My undergraduate research has been the most rewarding experience I have ever had. I have gained more scientific knowledge and learned more about myself than I ever thought I would. It has shaped who I am as a scientist and what my goals are in the future.”

“I think getting your hands dirty in the lab is the best thing you could possibly do as an undergraduate. I can't see myself doing anything else. It's why I want to get a research associate job for a year or two after undergraduate‐‐I love research science, and I want to commit myself completely before I go back to school. I want to be the absolute best scientist I can be. Thank you for giving me this opportunity. I think I will look back on it as instrumental in my professional development.”

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Watkins Testimonials

Interviews with current/past Watkins Fellows:

J. Alan Goggins | Watkins Fellow 2014-2017

JAGoggins600J. Alan Goggins is originally from North Carolina. He received his bachelors of science in Environmental Public Health from Western Carolina University in 2010. After graduation he enrolled directly in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, where he is studying the host adaptive immune response against Salmonella. He is scheduled to complete his doctoral degree by the end of 2016 and upon graduation he plans on obtaining a postdoctoral position at a government based research institution.

What is the most valuable aspect of the Watkins Fellowship?
Receiving the Watkins Graduate Research Fellowship has had a tremendous impact on my graduate career. I've had the opportunity to meet amazing scientists at all career levels. I've made lasting connections with both my peers and prospective employers alike. I've learned about scientific career opportunities I would have never known about otherwise. Having the Watkins Graduate Research Fellowship on my CV helps designate me from my peers when applying for competitive awards and has helped me obtain several other prestigious research and career development opportunities. This award is about so much more than the financial support, its about reaching your true potential as a research scientist by connecting with and learning from the brightest minds in Microbiology.

Jordan Mar | Watkins Fellow 2012-2015

Jordan Mar received his B.S. in microbiology at UC Davis. Following his undergrad, Mar spent two years as a research associate for Adam Arkin at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory where he studied the biology of ethanol producing bacteria in the context of biofuel production. Currently, he is wrapping up his Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences at UCSF. Mar's thesis research is being conduct under the guidance of ASM member, Susan Lynch and focuses on the connection between the gastrointestinal microbiome and host immune regulation. He hopes to pursue a research career in industry investigating medically relevant topics. 

What would you say to those considering applying for the Fellowship?
DO IT!! The ASM Fellowship is a great opportunity! Attending the ASM general meeting every year not only helps you grow as a scientist through exposure to all types of research, but it also is a great venue for career development. ASM is really pushing a lot of new career development programs that alternative fellowships simply don't offer. Plus, the education board at ASM is really proactive. They listen to the needs of graduate students and really try to help them succeed in any way they can. 

What is the most valuable aspect of the Watkins Fellowship? Attending the ASM general meeting. As a fellow, you get access to all types of additional programs... particular ones related to career development.

Sophonie Jean | Watkins Fellow 2011-2014

JeanSophonie Jean received a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology from the University of Richmond. She is receiving her PhD from Virginia Commonwealth University Department of Biology, Integrative Life Sciences Program where she studies outer-membrane transporters in Neisseria gonorrhoeae and their role in nutrient acquisition and virulence. Jean is very much interested in the intersection of microbiology research and public health and hopes to pursue a career either in clinical/diagnostic microbiology or surveillance/management of disease outbreaks.

What would you say to those considering applying for the Fellowship?
I would definitely encourage students to apply for the Fellowship! There really is nothing to lose and everything to gain. Even if you are not awarded the fellowship on your first try, the experience of completing the application process will only make you more competitive for future application cycles.

What is the most valuable aspect of the Watkins Fellowship?
In addition to the considerable financial support, I have found the most valuable aspect of the Watkins Fellowship to be the incredible access to the ASM Education and Post-doctoral Committee network. Watkins fellows have the opportunity to meet with renowned scientists in smaller gatherings at the General Meeting and at workshops like the Kadner Institute and Scientific Writing and Publishing Institute.

If you are a past Watkins Fellow and would like to be interviewed, please contact Leah Gibbons ( 

Excerpts from articles about ASM Watkins Fellows:

Ruth Kabeche Awarded ASM Robert D. Watkins Graduate Research Fellowship

"The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) has selected Geisel School of Medicine graduate student Ruth Kabeche as a 2014-2017-award recipient of the ASM Robert D. Watkins Graduate Research Fellowship. Kabeche will receive up to $21,000 in an annual stipend for three years to continue her research on the role of membrane compartments in fungal biology.

“This award is very well deserved. It recognizes Ruth’s past accomplishments and future potential,” says James Moseley, PhD, assistant professor of biochemistry at the Geisel School of Medicine and Kabeche’s mentor. “She has tackled a very basic problem in cell biology: how are compartments inside the cell made, and what are their functions? As a graduate student at Geisel, she has characterized the formation and function of a previously mysterious compartment in fungal cells. The work has major implications for understanding how cells work, and may someday be applied to therapies that target fungal infections.”"

UT grad student Veronica Garcia awarded microbiology fellowship

"Veronica Garcia, a student at The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston, has been awarded a Robert D. Watkins Graduate Research Fellowship from the American Society for Microbiology. Each fellow is awarded up to a $21,000 annual stipend for three years.

Garcia is using the fellowship to research the underlying causes of Alzheimer's disease and other disorders. Alzheimer's disease affects as many as 5 million Americans age 65 and older.

Her research is focused on molecular machines that protect cellular proteins, which if folded incorrectly can lead to disease. "We're looking at a quality control mechanism that is supposed to prevent these problems from occurring," said Garcia, who is pursuing a doctoral degree in microbiology."

Elyse E. Munoz Receives the ASM Robert D. Watkins Graduate Research Fellowship

"Elyse E. Munoz, a Ph.D. genetics graduate student in the laboratory of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology faculty member, Scott Lindner, was named a 2014-2017 recipient of a Robert D. Watkins Graduate Research Fellowship.

Munoz will receive a stipend over the next three years to conduct research and will have the opportunity to present her research results at the annual ASM General Meeting. Her research, entitled, “Identification of Puf2-storage granule components that preserve Plasmodium sporozoite infectivity" focuses on understanding the role of RNA-binding proteins in preserving infectivity of Plasmodium, the parasites that cause malaria. Munoz explained, “Puf2 is one such RNA-binding protein that binds specific mRNAs to preserve infectivity of sporozoites, which is the form of the parasite that is transmitted from the salivary glands of mosquitoes. This is an important point for these parasites, as they are unable to predict the moment of transmission to a host. Therefore, the parasites must maintain their infectivity for an extended period of time, which they accomplish by modulating RNA homeostasis through the action of RNA-binding proteins. Further, Puf2 forms what appears to be storage complexes in sporozoites; however, the composition of these complexes is still unknown.”"

Comments from past Watkins Fellows:

"This is an extremely valuable program that enriches the Graduate training experience. It allows freedom to explore new research avenues through experimentation as well as travel and presentation/networking opportunities at National conferences for the candidates."

"Being a Watkins Fellow has been by far the most important career building opportunity I've had as a graduate student. I've been able to meet and network with current and former fellows across the country, had the opportunity to participate in the Kadner Institute, and volunteer at ABRCMS. The staff at ASM has been more than helpful with anything I've ever needed. It sounds cliche, but I feel like I've become a member of the ASM family by being a Watkins Fellow. Thank you."

"The ASM Educational Board does an excellent job of supporting, mentoring, and preparing young scientists. This has been my longest lasting and most profitable association. Thank you very much for all the wonderful programs you offer."

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