Dominican University of California Student Named United Negro College Fund, Merck Fellow

Dominican University of California biology major Faith Hall is one of 15 undergraduate students nationwide selected to receive the United Negro College Fund Merck Undergraduate Science Research Scholarship Award. The annual scholarship is awarded to African-American students pursuing studies and careers in the field of biomedical research. The $25,000 scholarship will cover Hall’s expenses for the 2005-2006 school year. As part of the award, Dominican’s Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics is eligible to receive a grant of up to $10,000 to support research.

“Faith is intelligent, mature, and completely dependable, ” says Sibdas Ghosh, chair and professor of biology in the Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. “She is the kind of bright, quick, and industrious person who brings joy to a professor's heart.”

At Dominican, science majors are strongly encouraged to research, present, and publish at an undergraduate level, with biology students working alongside their professors on a variety of research projects. It was the promise of undergraduate research that led Hall to select Dominican University of California over several East Coast universities, including one Pennsylvania institution that had offered her a full scholarship.

Now, with three years of lab experience under her belt and publication in the peer-review journal Physiology and Molecular Biology of Plants, Hall notes she has gained more hands-on experience at Dominican than she would have at a larger institution. “It was definitely the right decision to come to Dominican. I have been introduced to many opportunities that I would not have had at a larger university.”

Currently Hall, a junior, is researching the DAX1 gene in relation to breast cancer. Breast cancer cell growth is stimulated by estrogen, and the Dominican team is working with genetic mutations of the DAX1 gene to see if it will bind to different estrogen receptors.

Last summer Hall was an intern at the Department of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where she worked on lightning research, compiling a database of lightning-related injuries. When completed, the database will provide hospitals with information about all the different injuries that can occur when an individual is struck by lightning.

In summer 2003, Hall and three other Dominican students traveled to Sweden to collaborate with Dr. Ghosh and Dr. Abul Mandal, a professor at the University of Skovde, on research seeking the gene mutations that delay the flowering time in the Arabidopsis thaliana plant. Molecular biology tools used during this research included DNA isolation, inverse/PCR, autoradiography and restriction mapping. The Dominican team presented their research at the 18th National Conference on Undergraduate Research in Indiana.

During her freshman year Hall researched the physiological effects and biochemical functions of Paclobutrazol, a pesticide, during plant stress. Results from this project were presented at the 17th National Conference on Undergraduate Research in Utah. The Paclobutrazol research was published in Physiology and Molecular Biology of Plants.

When she graduates from Dominican in spring 2006, Hall intends to pursue graduate studies in microbiology, virology, or biotechnology with an emphasis on biomedicine. Her goal is to earn her PhD and become a professor or researcher.

“Originally, my plan was to go to medical school,” notes Hall. “But then I started thinking about my future and decided that I should not just think about me, but think about how my work could impact future generations.”