College of Science seniors receive Fulbright awards

Author: Stephanie Healey

Sylvia Yong
Sylvia Yong

Senior biochemistry and French double major Sylvia Yong of Gainesville, Fla. has been awarded a prestigious Fulbright award to pursue research at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, France. She was a research intern at Institut Pasteur last summer in the unit of biochemistry of macromolecular interactions.

In the fall, Yong will explore the structure and molecular mechanisms of the Bordetella pertussis toxin adenylate cyclase (CyaA). In addition to having important implications for understanding the role of this toxin in the pertussis disease, better understanding of the structural properties and the translocation mechanisms of CyaA will also allow for further engineering of this molecule that is used as an efficient antigen delivery vector in innovative therapeutic vaccines.

“I'm really excited that I will be able to apply both my undergraduate studies in biochemistry and French in one setting and grow in both dimensions,” Yong said. “The opportunity to be in an institute with historical and contemporary scientific significance is humbling and it will be stimulating to be able to use French daily.”

Yong has also been very involved in research at Notre Dame. Since the spring of her sophomore year, she has worked in the laboratory of Robert Stahelin, adjunct associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, studying the lipid binding properties of the Ebola virus matrix protein VP40 and its implications for viral replication and infection. She has also served an editor for the biology and health section of Scientia, the undergraduate journal of scientific research. Outside of the laboratory and classroom, she is very dedicated to service, having regularly volunteered at hospitals in South Bend and her hometown and has participated in several Center for Social Concerns seminars. 

"Sylvia possesses an unsurpassed intellectual curiosity.  She is fluent in three languages, and yet excels in her biochemistry coursework and in the laboratory,” explained Dawn Hopkins, graduate research fellow in the Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement (CUSE) and Ph.D. candidate in biological sciences.  “Research did not represent a box to be checked for Sylvia; she is truly passionate about scientific research process.  She is motivated, thoughtful, intelligent, and expresses herself with clarity.  She will be an exceptional representative of the US and Notre Dame while she is in France.”

Grace Meikle
Grace Meikle

In addition, senior physics and Chinese double major Grace Meikle of Boise, Idaho  earned a Fulbright award to do research in China. As an undergraduate, she worked in the laboratory of Prashant Kamat, The Rev. John A. Zahm Professor of Science in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, on nanotechnology and solar power research.

Meikle took advantage of several opportunities to work abroad throughout her undergraduate career. The summer after her freshman year, Meikle brought solar-powered produced electricity to a rural village in the geographically isolated heart of India. She also spent summers conducting research in China and Japan. In lieu of accepting the Fulbright award, Meikle will become field engineer in the oil services industry in Alberta, Canada after graduation.

The Fulbright Scholar Program was established by Senator J. William Fulbright and President Harry Truman right after the Second World War to promote peace and understanding through educational exchange. The US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs now sponsors exchanges with more than 155 countries around the world.

Current students who are interested in learning more about the Fulbright Program should visit the CUSE National Fellowships Fulbright page. CUSE National Fellowships works with Notre Dame undergraduates to help them discern which national fellowships might be the best fit for them, given their commitments, and then offers guidance throughout the application process.