2019 Goldwater Scholar

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3rd year biochemistry undergraduate researcher Abby Thurm (Gelbart/Knobler group) is one of three UCLA students to be named Goldwater Scholars in 2019. 

496 undergraduate students nationwide were chosen for the award from a pool of more than 5,000 applicants and 1,200 nominees from 443 academic institutions.

The prestigious award, established by Congress to honor the work of the late Senator Barry Goldwater, is given to sophomores and juniors who intend to pursue careers in the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering. Goldwater Scholarships cover the cost of tuition, fees, books and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year.

Thurm’s career goal is to obtain an M.D./Ph.D. in Chemical Biology and to conduct translational research with clinical applications in drug delivery or pharmaceutical development and teach at the university or graduate/medical school level. In the UCLA Gelbart-Knobler Virus Group she studies viruses in a physical and pharmaceutical context, and is currently working on projects detailing the effects of RNA secondary structure on virion self-assembly and on the development of RNA-based antiviral therapies. 

In 2017, Thurm received a UCLA Raymond & Dorothy Wilson Research Fellowship. Her research for 2018-2019 was supported by the UCLA Undergraduate Research Scholars Program, and she has been named a UCLA Amgen Scholar for summer 2019.

In 2018, Thurm was a Summer Research Intern at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) where she conducted research in Professor Daniel Tenen’s group as part of the Harvard Internship Program. Her project focused on the utilization of noncoding RNAs to disrupt cell proliferation and differentiation, with specific aims of targeting malignant hematopoiesis, via the use of the CRISPR/Cas9 expression system and developed technologies. 

Thurm serves as a mentor for the Collaboration for Undergraduate Research Experience where she helps younger undergraduates to increase their chances of success in joining and thriving in faculty labs, and for SCOPE: UCLA Youth Empowerment Program, a UCLA mentorship program aimed at establishing a support system for at-risk youth, where she provides one-on-one mentorship working closely with a LAUSD elementary school student and his family to improve academic, social, and problem-solving skills. 

To learn more about the UCLA Gelbart-Knobler Virus Group visit their website.


Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, penny@chem.ucla.edu.