University of Texas at Arlington undergraduate Emmanuel Fordjour was distinguished with one of the 15 2014 United Negro College Fund (UNCF) Merck Science Research Fellowship Awards. The award recognizes outstanding African-American students and postdoctoral leaders, and will grant him a $25,000 scholarship for tuition, housing, and billable fees.
Fordjour, who is majoring in biology and microbiology, will also receive research internship opportunities with the Merck Company Foundation and Merck Global Diversity Inclusion, two of the drivers of the project, as well as travel expenses to orientation and research conferences. Along with the UNCF, the three institutions created the UNCF Merck Science Initiative to help African American undergraduate students who are interested in science to further their science education and potentially pursue science and engineering careers.
To be considered for a UNCF Merck Undergraduate Science Research Scholarship Award, the criteria include being African American, enrolled full-time in any four-year college or university in the United States, being a candidate for a B.S. or a B.A. degree during the current academic year, majoring in life sciences, physical sciences, or engineering, having a minimum GPA of 3.3 on a 4.0 scale, being committed to and eligible for the summer internship at a Merck facility, and being a citizen or permanent resident of the United States.
Fordjour fulfilled all of the criteria and was chosen by a panel based on his GPA, his interest in his own scientific education, and in having a career in scientific research, as well as in his ability to perform in a laboratory environment.
The student plans to graduate from UT Arlington in 2015 and complete a combined M.D./Ph.D. program to become a physician, educator, and researcher. He was recognized with another award early this year, from the Washington D.C.-based Council on Undergraduate Research and the Barry M. Goldwater Foundation. The award was granted for his research with the assistant professor of biology at UT Arlington, Julian Hurdle, on a treatment course for Clostridium difficile infection (CDI), a dangerous and hospital-acquired disease.
CDI is a gram-positive, anaerobic bacterium that can provoke complications from diarrhea to life-threatening inflammation of the colon and is is one of the most common causes of colon infections in the United States. The disease commonly strikes older patients in hospitals or in long-term care facilities and typically occurs after the use of antibiotic medications. However, recent studies show an inversion in the traditional patient population, since the infection as increased among people traditionally not considered high risk, such as younger and healthy individuals without a history of antibiotic use or exposure to health care facilities. It has also become more frequent, severe and difficult to treat. CDI affects more than a half million people every year.
Thanks to the UNCF, Merck, UT Arlington, and Emmanuel Fordjour’s hard work and talent, the student will have the opportunity to tackle Clostridium difficile and other pressing needs in life science research.