For one CSUN student, the Presidential Scholars award is the perfect stepping stone for a future medical career. On the third floor of Magnolia Hall, cell and molecular biology major Tania Benjamin meticulously constructs what is invisible to the naked eye — a molecule.
Ever since she was a freshman, Tania has spent most of her time in this building at one of its chemistry labs.
Tania is working on a catalyst for a chemical reaction called olefin metathesis. Her goal, once she finishes the molecule, is to create a new catalyst and produce a better reaction. She hopes her experiment and research will better prepare her for a career in the medical field.
“These catalysts are used in the pharmaceutical industry to assist in the development of anti-cancer therapies or therapeutics,” explains Tania.
Her commitment to science has already helped her win CSUN’s most prestigious award — the Presidential Scholar — two years in a row. Winning is no small feat; the $10,000 scholarship is for undergraduate students with at least a 3.5 GPA. Benefits include priority registration, a discount at the Matador Bookstore and networking opportunities.
The award also allows Tania to work closely with chemistry professor Yann Schrodi who worked with Robert H. Grubbs, one of the three Nobel Prize chemists who created the same catalyst that Tania is focusing on. Upon completing her research, Tania will get to present her results in front of President Dianne F. Harrison during the annual Presidential Scholars exhibit.
“The award really helps you solidify what you are doing with your project,” says Tania. “And [affirms if] you are making progress.”
Winning the scholarship was just one of the few steps in her path to becoming a physician. In addition to her scholarship research, Tania recently participated in Harvard Medical School’s summer internship program with eight other college students from across the United States; the opportunity allowed her to study an enzyme found in cancer cells and attend workshops about applying research to a global population. Tania plans to attend University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, in fall 2015.
She attributes some of her success to the mentors and connections she made through the Presidential Scholars program.
“Mentors really guide you through the next step in your education,” she says. “[Professor Schrodi] was really helpful in the progress I made with my project and school-related subjects, but also outside of school with extracurricular activities.”
Thus, she encourages her peers not to be deterred by the application process.
“Have confidence. Don’t think that you don’t deserve it or it might be hard to get,” advises Tania. “Find a project that you can put a lot of time in to and that has some type of [practical] application. Just send it in and see what happens.”