In his application for a prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, Brandon Russell described how an illness in the family propelled him into pursuing a career in science.
“During my freshman year of college, my uncle was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis,” wrote Russell, a chemistry major from Brookhaven and Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College student. “His infectious curiosity and unwavering encouragement were the reasons I am majoring in the sciences.”
Russell’s devotion to finding treatments for such diseases was rewarded last spring when he became the 11th Goldwater Scholar at UM since the scholarship program began in 1986. The foundation annually awards 300 scholarships to undergraduates who demonstrate commitment to careers as research scientists.
Russell wants to work as an experimental researcher seeking novel therapeutic approaches to diseases that are difficult to combat with traditional pharmaceuticals. In preparation for this career, he has conducted laboratory research at UM with Stephen J. D’Surney, associate professor of biology, and Daniell Mattern, professor of chemistry and biochemistry.
Russell has also collaborated with Peter C. Dedon, professor of toxicology and biomedical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Accepted into the highly selective Applied Biosciences Research Experience for Undergraduates program at MIT during the summer of 2006, Russell investigated the effects of exposure to nitric oxide on DNA in human cells. He subsequently presented his research at the 2006 fall meeting of the national Biomedical Engineering Society in Chicago. He hopes to return to MIT to earn his doctorate in biological engineering and to continue his work in Dedon’s lab.