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Stafford Fellowship in Bioinformatics Gives Science Students a Leg Up

two students pose outside an academic building

Hailie Mitchell '24 (left) and Claire Choplick '26. Photo by Dan Loh.

Fellowship supports research and internships both on campus and off, across the academic year and through the summer

by Tony Moore

The Stafford Fellowship in Bioinformatics is a scholarship awarded to Dickinson students who have articulated strong interest in science or research in the areas of biology and biochemistry & molecular biology—and periodically in such areas as neuroscience, environmental science, computer science and chemistry.

And it gives those students a real edge, on campus and beyond.

“My favorite attribute of the Stafford Fellowship is that it provides a mechanism to make our students even more competitive for life beyond the limestone walls, whether those opportunities occur while they are still students or postgraduation,” says Kirsten Guss, associate professor of biology and Dickinson’s John R. & Inge Paul Stafford Chair in Bioinformatics. “I feel like the Stafford Fellowship can be a step toward showing the rest of the world how great our students are. We know, but we want the rest of the world to know too.”

A facet of the Inge Paul & John R. Stafford Scholarship for Bioinformatics, the fellowship was established in 2002 by Jack '59 and Inge '58 Stafford to attract strong science students to Dickinson and to provide them with research opportunities either on or off campus.

“Working in Professor of Biology Mike Roberts’ acute myeloid leukemia lab in summer 2023 allowed me to practice working in a professional lab setting, delve into topics of cancer treatment and narrow my future focuses in the field of medicine,” says Kishan Mangru ’25 (biology), noting that he was able to deepen his understanding of cancer processes and treatments. “Focusing on one gene allowed me to know the intricacies of the gene from beginning to end. I was able to sort through literature with that gene in focus, allowing for nuanced and detailed understanding that I would not have had if I were to research through a broader lens.”

Kishan Mangru stands in front of a river

Kishan Mangru ’25, who's currently studying abroad in Turks and Caicos, at the School for Field Studies.

With an eye toward future careers

Administered by Guss, the Stafford Fellowship has fully supported students’ summer research experiences off campus, supplemented uncovered expenses and supported on-campus research experiences during the semester or summer.

“The Stafford Fellowship was extremely helpful, because it made it easier for me to pay for housing during my internship,” says Rylee Beam ’23 (biochemistry & molecular biology), who used the funds while taking part in the Summer Undergraduate Research Internship Program (SURIP) at the Penn State College of Medicine. “My experience as an intern helped confirm to me that I wanted to pursue a career in the field of research and, along with my research experience at Dickinson, helped me get my current position in the NIH Post-Baccalaureate IRTA program.”

Besides Mangru, two other current students have received Stafford Fellowships, both of whom are weighing their options on how to best use the funds: Hailie Mitchell '24 (computer science) and Claire Choplick '26 (biochemistry & molecular biology).

“I hope to take internship opportunities in science research without having to worry about money!” says Choplick on her plans for the fellowship. “It will allow me to follow what I'm passionate in, without barriers. Without the Stafford scholarship, my opportunities would be more limited, and I wouldn't have the chance to learn about all the different career options out there.”

Mangru also is using the fellowship to help him look forward—to a future where he can build a career and engage with the wider world.

“I have always been interested in pursuing medicine, from working at UPMC hospital as a nursing assistant to shadowing with Albert Einstein College of Medicine-Montefiore hospital,” he says. “However, this lab became an additional way that I can see medicine taking shape in my future. Cancer prevention and treatment can be a meaningful way to impact affected populations, build community and find my purpose in the medical field.”

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Published October 26, 2023