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Profiles in Giving

Nicole Cherng

About Her

"Science is endless possibilities," says Nicole Cherng, A10, a stellar researcher as an undergraduate in Tufts biologist Sergei Mirkinís lab, now studying for her M.D. at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. "Whatís exciting is thereís so much to be found," she says. "Thereís so much to be discovered still, so much to be created, so much that still doesnít make sense."

The aspiring doctor from Westford, Mass., is an example of the ripple effect of philanthropy. A series of scholarship awards enabled her to work three years in Professor Mirkinís laboratory. Meantime, Mirkinís teaching and research have been supported by the endowed professorship he holds, the White Family Chair in Biology. The generosity of Tufts parents John and Penny White (J97P, A03P, A05P) benefited the Tufts researcher whose student now paves her own path in science.

What She Brings

"As a physician I hope to be able to contribute not only to day-to-day patient care, but also to the research world," Cherng says. As an undergraduate, she was lead author on a paper published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The paper described findings of research done in the Mirkin lab with potential applications in the treatment of a particular neurological disorder, spinocerebellar ataxia, for which there currently is no cure. "It is remarkable for an undergraduate student to be lead author on a paper in the Proceedings, one of the most prestigious scientific journals in the world," Mirkin says. "I am sure she will have a bright futureóand it was a privilege to see her start her journey here at Tufts."

About Her Tufts Experience

A biology major, Cherng joined Mirkinís lab the summer after freshman year on an eight-week research fellowship under the National Science Foundationís Research Experience for Undergraduates program. The experience led her to add a major in biomedical engineering. She continued in the lab with support from a Russell L. Carpenter Summer Fellowship and as a Summer Scholar. A grant to the Mirkin Lab from the National Institutes of Health also provided support.

"My three years in Sergeiís lab culminated in my first authored publication and my senior thesis," she said. "I learned the discipline of independent research. The amount of responsibility Sergei gave me was very high, overwhelming at times, but it pushed me to a higher level of achievement than I might otherwise have achieved as an undergraduate. He really pushed me to learn more."