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Mount Grad Sarah Bonson Secures NSF Research Fellowship

Bonson feature

Sarah Bonson, C’17, graduated from Mount St. Mary’s University last May with the highest scholastic average through her four years at the university, a Clare Boothe Luce Scholarship, and membership in the Honor Society and multiple science honor organizations. She has continued to excel this academic year in the chemistry doctoral program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, culminating in the receipt of a prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

The national program supports select graduate students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines at accredited U.S. universities. In 2018, the NSF received applications from 12,000 graduate students, and 2,000 were awarded the fellowship. Applicants are selected through the NSF peer review process.

While Bonson physically left the Mount nearly a year ago, she remains connected to the university, receiving advice and support from professors in the School of Natural Science and Mathematics. In informing her Mount professors about the fellowship, Bonson thanked Patricia Kreke, Ph.D., Danny Miles, Ph.D., Susan Mertins, Ph.D., and Garth Patterson, Ph.D., for their help and support in the application process. “There is no way this would be possible without each one of you!” Bonson wrote.

Kreke, professor of chemistry and Bonson's research advisor during her time at the Mount, and Patterson, assistant professor of analytical chemistry and a member of the Faculty Advisory Committee to the Mount’s Office of Competitive Fellowships, worked with Bonson in refining the application. The Office of Competitive Fellowships assists students and alumni with the application process for highly competitive and distinguished awards. As an undergraduate student, Bonson received honorable mention for the Barry Goldwater Scholarship Program.

“The Mount congratulates Sarah on this well-deserved fellowship and commends faculty for continuing to support her intellectual development,” said Provost Boyd Creasman, Ph.D. “As a Division I swimmer, a leader in campus ministry, a campus tour guide and student researcher in her four years at the Mount, Sarah epitomizes the type of graduate the Mount strives to produce: an ethical leader who is inspired by a passion for learning and is living a life of significance in service to God and others.”

The fellowship will allow Bonson to continue her graduate work developing molecular therapeutics for Myotonic Dystrophy Type 1 (DM1), a form of muscular dystrophy. In the group of Steven C. Zimmerman, Ph.D., she is working to synthesize novel RNA-targeting molecules to treat this disease. Bonson counts the hands-on research that she conducted with faculty members as her most meaningful experience at the Mount because it helped her to gain “problem solving skills and proper scientific technique as well as writing and presentation skills.”

“The Mount equipped me to apply the knowledge which I have learned in the classroom to solve real-world problems through scientific experimentation,” Bonson said. Working with professors Kreke and Miles at the Mount, she developed an efficient protocol for the synthesis of gold nanoparticles. Bonson subsequently worked on a procedure to characterize these nanoparticles using dynamic light scattering. She also gained valuable experience through a summer internship at the National Institute for Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado, where she worked on a project titled “Electromagnetic Response of Nanoparticles in Microfluidic Channels.”