Stonehill’s Emily Zygiel ’16 Named Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship Recipient

April 22, 2015


The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation recently announced biochemistry major Emily Zygiel ’16 as the recipient of a prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship.

The Scholarship Program honoring Senator Barry Goldwater fosters and encourages outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences, and engineering. The Goldwater Scholarship is the premier undergraduate award of its type in these fields.

One of 260 young scholars selected nationwide, Zygiel will receive up to $7,500 for use towards tuition, book, and room and board fees. The Goldwater Scholars were selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1,206 students who were nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities nationwide.

Zygiel becomes the fifth Stonehill student to receive a Goldwater Scholarship. Previous recipients have been Christopher Kelly ’10, Ellen M. Sletten ’06, Daniel F. Tardiff ’02, and Amy M. (Morin) Deveau ’96.

Goldwater Scholars have very impressive academic qualifications that have garnered the attention of prestigious post-graduate fellowship programs. Given their impressive academic qualifications, Goldwater Scholars frequently go on to secure fellowships from top post-graduate programs. Recent Goldwater Scholars have been awarded 86 Rhodes Scholarships, 123 Marshall Awards, 123 Churchill Scholarships, and numerous other distinguished fellowships such as the National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowships.

“Emily’s passion for science and her academic ability and drive will undoubtedly lead her to contribute in significant ways to the field of bioinorganic chemistry as an undergraduate and graduate student and throughout her career as a research scientist. It was my distinct honor to enthusiastically support and nominate Emily’s application for a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship,” says Stonehill Dean of Academic Achievement Craig Almeida.

This spring, Zygiel’s enthusiasm for research has led her to the Danish Institute for Study Abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark where she will broaden her scientific education as she conducts a research project on the subject of electron transfer in metalloenzymes.

While studying in Denmark this semester, she is also conducting research on free radical carbonylation of proteins for University of Copenhagen Professor Morten Jannik Bjerrum.

Zygiel has worked in the lab of Associate Professor of Chemistry Marilena Hall since the fall of 2013.  “Emily has such a natural sense of how research is performed in biochemistry. I hardly had to mentor her at all before she was coming up with ideas and insights that I had not thought of yet. There's no doubt that she will have a prolific research career.  She is also the type of person anyone would be thrilled to collaborate with: hardworking, patient, enthusiastic, and kind,” says Hall.

This summer, Zygiel will once again be working with Hall and one other Stonehill student on a research project titled "Propensity of a Commercial M13 Bacteriophage to Pick up Mutations to Compensate for Virulence Compared to Wild-type Phage." The project is being conducted as part of the Stonehill Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) Program. She will conduct experiments to demonstrate that protein II is less active in the commercial phage than the natural one, thus explaining why it needs to pick up mutations in order to survive

“It is clearly evident is that Emily has a passion and enthusiasm, as well as an innate talent, for conducting research that yields high quality results,” notes Almeida.

As a sophomore, Zygiel contributed to a 2014 peer-reviewed publication in Analytical Biochemistry, and all indications are that she will be a co-author on another peer-reviewed journal article by the time she graduates in May 2016.

Zygiel is a Moreau Honors Scholar and a member of Stonehill’s honor society Lambda Epsilon Sigma. She has been named to the Dean’s List every semester since beginning her studies at Stonehill in the fall of 2012. She also received in the spring of 2013 the CRC Chemistry Award for her strong performance in the first-year chemistry courses.

Zygiel plans to pursue a doctorate in bioinorganic chemistry and conduct research on the behavior and function of metal ions in biological systems. She also hopes to teach at the university level.

I want to pursue a career in bioinorganic chemistry because it occurs at the interface of the three areas I find most interesting: biochemistry, inorganic chemistry, and physical chemistry. I enjoy studying the processes in the body that involve metal ions, and I want to add to the growing body of research characterizing their behaviors,” says Zygiel.

Her interest in teaching at the university level stems from her work with professors like Hall, who have significantly impacted her intellectual and personal development.

“She (Hall) is such an incredible, intelligent person who never fails to surprise me with her optimism and patience. She took a chance by taking me on as her research student after I had only completed two semesters of undergraduate work. Whether I'm with her in the research lab, in the classroom, or on a road trip to visit our collaborators at New England Biolabs, she is constantly teaching me something new and encouraging my personal and professional development,” notes Zygiel.