Faith in chemistry

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Faith Simunyu ’13, a biochemistry major, has been awarded a prestigious scholarship from the UNCF Merck Science Initiative and will receive $25,000 toward her college costs. Additionally, she will be a paid intern for 10 to 12 weeks at a Merck facility this summer, where she hopes to research metabolic diseases—a field of study that hits close to home.

Simunyu spent most of her youth in Zimbabwe in southern Africa, where she lost many relatives to diseases, including her mother. “I have a passion for understanding the chemistry and biology of disease, and perhaps to try and better recognize and help people early enough with diseases in the future,” she says. “Growing up in a third-world country, where so many people suffer from disease, instilled in me a deep curiosity about disease development and finding the right means to treat and possibly cure people.”

Though at one time she was very interested in becoming a medical doctor, Simunyu is now focused on research as a profession. “I have come to the realization that I enjoy organic synthesis. I plan to pursue research as my focus in graduate school for a Ph.D. in chemistry or biochemistry,” she said. “It’s one thing to learn facts in the classroom, but another being in lab. It is much more exciting seeing the art of science in the lab and learning by observation.”

Simunyu, who lived with relatives while attending high school in Lowell, Mass., has already spent one summer doing research. As an Anderson Summer Scholar last year, her research project was titled, “Cross-linking Stabilization of Columnar Liquid Crystals,” under Joe Reczek, assistant professor of chemistry. And she’s just returned from California where she presented her research to a semi-annual meeting of the American Chemical Society. But Simunyu doesn’t spend all of her time in the lab. She’s also a member of Tehillah, an a cappella gospel group on campus, and a member of Multicultural Epistemology, a student group whose purpose is to preserve, promote, and present urban arts and culture.

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