Biochemistry major Naing Bajaj is one of only five students in the U.S. to win a Pfizer Undergraduate Student Travel Award
Recently, Naing Bajaj traveled to the 2013 Annual Meeting of the Society of Toxicology (SOT) to present her research to scientists from around the world.
Thanks to the Pfizer Undergraduate Student Travel Award, Bajaj was able to network with experts in the toxicology field and learn about summer internship opportunities and graduate school application strategies.
"Naing's selection as a Pfizer recipient is quite an accomplishment," said Aaron Rowland, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemistry at NMSU. "Hopefully, this experience will provide additional insight into research career opportunities, and confirm Naing's aspiration to pursue biomedical research."
Pfizer Undergraduate Student Travel Awards are designed to foster interest in graduate studies in the field of toxicology. They are presented through the SOT to five outstanding undergraduates who are presenting research at the annual meeting.
"I believe that knowledge of how chemicals influence human health will benefit me in contributing to biomedical research in either industry, academia or government," Bajaj said.
Bajaj's scientific research began as a freshman through NMSU's Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement program or RISE. The program aims to increase the number of underrepresented minority students who achieve a doctoral degree in a biomedical and/or biobehavioral discipline.
As a junior, she transferred into NMSU's Minority Access to Research Careers program, which is designed to prepare undergraduate students for post-graduate studies in the biomedical sciences, leading to a Ph.D. Rowland, a MARC mentor and member of the SOT, encouraged her to apply for the award.
The work in Rowland's laboratory focuses on understanding the role of the drug-metabolizing enzyme, Cytochrome P450 2S1 (CYP2S1). Bajaj's project examines the implications of known human CYP2S1 polymorphisms on the transformation of an inactive anti-cancer drug to its active form. These studies may lead to a better understanding of inter-individual differences in response to cancer treatment.
"I am very proud of Naing for her accomplishments in the laboratory," Rowland said. "Naing is a very dedicated and hard working individual and is deserving of this honor.