Phyllis Cohen Stevens
Deputy Director of News Services
QUEENS COLLEGE STUDENT MIRIAM GINZBERG, A KEW GARDENS RESIDENT,
RECEIVES PRESTIGIOUS GOLDWATER SCHOLARSHIP
-- Award Boosts Her Dream of Becoming a Pharmaceuticals Researcher --
FLUSHING, NY, April 12, 2007 – When Miriam Ginzberg was attending religious school in the U.S. and Israel, little did she realize that one day she would be pursuing a challenging career in the sciences at a public college. But when the opportunity came along to make her dream a reality, Ginzberg went for it.
“Given my background, it was a somewhat unusual career choice,” says Ginzberg, 22, an honors chemistry major in her junior year at Queens College. “But I’ve always had an interest in science and curiosity about how things work. I decided I owed it to myself to follow my dream and further my education even if it took a little longer to get there.”
Ginzberg aspires to teach and conduct research in pharmaceutical materials science, a field that focuses on using nanotechnology to develop medical advances such as biosensors and improved drug-delivery systems. This year she has taken a giant step toward attaining that goal by winning the prestigious, highly competitive Goldwater Scholarship. Named for former Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, the national program recognizes outstanding math, science and engineering sophomores and juniors and covers the cost of tuition, fees, books and room and board up to $7,500.
One of seven children, four of whom live in Israel along with her mother, Ginzberg says she could not have gone this far without the “constant encouragement received from family, friends and mentors at Queens College. When I came here, I was very focused, motivated and determined. I knew I wanted to succeed at my goal, but I didn’t know how to do it. The great thing was I met so many people, especially the staff and faculty, who had more confidence in me than I had in myself. They pushed me to think big and explore new options.”
Last year Ginzberg worked in the materials research lab of then-Queens College chemistry professor Bonnie Gersten, where she learned to prepare nanostructured materials for biosensing applications. According to Ginzberg, the development of an inexpensive, user-friendly DNA biosensor, which could reliably signal the presence of disease-causing mutations, would be a promising diagnostic tool. Ginzberg presented their findings at the fall ’06 meeting of the Materials Research Society (MRS) in Boston. Recently she has been trying to start up a student section chapter of the MRS at Queens College to expose more budding scientists to the field.
This semester Ginzberg is being mentored by QC chemistry professor Harry Gafney on molecular imprinting to develop a sensor that could detect explosives in containerized cargo, subways and other environments. Such technology could play a key role in the war on terrorism.
“Miriam Ginzberg’s passion for research on biosensors puts her at the intersection of materials science and biochemistry, an area of expanding knowledge and discovery,” says Queens College ‘s president James Muyskens. “A young woman with extraordinary focus and initiative, Miriam embodies all that we value most in our students.”
Last summer Ginzberg had the opportunity to intern at the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, where she worked on a pharmacological research project in their diabetes and metabolism lab. “This internship reinforced my commitment to biomedical research and convinced me I could succeed in making it my career,” she says. “Working in an industry setting, I was constantly reminded that basic research leads to advances in medicine. The scientists I met were extraordinarily motivated and dedicated to their research, knowing it could one day cure diseases or save lives.”
Her latest award? A Rockefeller University Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, which will allow her to work on lab research projects under the direct supervision of some of the country’s leading scientists. Ginzberg was one of approximately 15 students chosen out of more than 500 applicants.
“There’s a lot of pressure on young people these days to get a job and do something useful as soon as possible,” continues Ginzberg. “But I think that having a little space to wander in is a good thing.”
The high-achieving Ginzberg, whose “wandering” led to the discovery of her life’s work, follows in the footsteps of Rachel Schnur, a Queens College biology major from Hillcrest, Queens, who was named a Goldwater Scholar last year. Schnur, who graduates this May, will pursue cancer research and university teaching.