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Archive for Friday, April 9, 1999

BU JUNIOR NAMED GOLDWATER SCHOLAR

April 9, 1999

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Genny Randall is one of two Goldwater Scholars who have been educated at Baker University.

You can sense right away that Baker University junior Genny Randall is not comfortable with all of the attention she has been receiving recently.

She sits poised like the accomplished runner that she is, ready to sprint off to get in some last-minute studying for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), or to fulfill one of her many obligations as a student who does it all -- sports, school, work, social clubs and volunteer work.

She politely answers questions about the Goldwater Scholarship she won that will provide $7,500 for her senior year at Baker. But she never volunteers the fact that last summer she was named the most outstanding intern at the National Institutes of Health in Washington, D.C. This is a significant omission because, out of 10,000 applicants, the largest biomedical research facility in the United States selects only 1,000 students for its summer internship program.

"Not only was she selected for the internship, she was the top student and was invited back," said Darcy Russell, associate professor of biology and one of Randall's advisers and teachers. "It is an extremely prestigious research opportunity."

Randall also declines to mention that her research at the NIH, as a team member at the National Institute of Neurological Disorder and Stroke, deals with one of this century's most topical and hotly debated medical subjects -- prion diseases, of which the most famous is known to most people as "mad cow disease."

Randall may not like the attention, but she likes what it means -- that she is that much closer to fulfilling her goals of pursuing dual doctoral degrees in medicine and biology at a top medical school and of working as a biomedical researcher studying the human nervous system.

"I am dedicated, insanely dedicated," she says, "I just can't let myself stop. I can't stop studying until I feel like I know it cold and until I reach whatever goal I have set for myself."

Randall is the school's second Goldwater recipient in the last four years. Dawn Gardner won the award in 1995. She is completing her doctoral degree at Yale University.

"This is an exceptional achievement for Genny and for the University," Baker President Dan Lambert said. "We've educated four Rhodes Scholars and two Pulitzer Prize winners at Baker. Our Goldwater Scholars are another fine example of the outstanding education we provide."

When it came time to pick a Goldwater Scholarship nominee, Gene Johnson, professor of mathematics and Baker's Goldwater representative, went through his normal procedure of finding a student who had a chance of becoming one of 300 Goldwater Scholars nationwide.

"At larger schools they have selection committees for scholarships that are this competitive," Johnson said. "But here, I just poke my head in science and math faculty offices and ask professors who is knocking their socks off this year."

This year the nominee was clear: Genny Randall.

"The application process is grueling," Johnson said. "The Goldwater committee is not looking for just 'good' or even 'excellent' students. They want someone with a passion for research so strong that, mentally, they are already part of the research community -- someone who is likely to become an outstanding researcher. And that is Genny; she had the best application of any student I have seen go through this process."

This summer she has been asked to return as an intern at the NIH, where she will work with the NINDS team to develop a simple, easy and accurate way to diagnose prion diseases in humans. Because prion diseases in humans often resemble other hard-to-identify diseases, diagnosis is the crucial first step researchers must make.

After Randall's internship, yet another grueling application process begins. This time it will be the most important one of Randall's young career -- her applications to medical school.

For now, however, there is still over a week of studying to be done for the MCAT, daily six-mile runs to train for Baker's cross-country team, weekly sorority meetings and her part-time job in Baker's chemistry department, not to mention the hours of additional studying for her regular class load.

Fortunately, Randall is ready to go.

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