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Northeastern student wins Goldwater scholarship

Northeastern University junior Steven Criscione has been awarded a scholarship from the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation for the 2009-2010 academic year for his research on DNA repair and enzyme activity. This award—considered one of the most competitive science scholarships in the country—is granted annually to top undergraduate students studying math, science and engineering to help them advance in their careers.

Criscione, a biochemistry major, is the fourth student from Northeastern to be awarded this scholarship.

“Steven is a truly gifted student and this award recognizes his outstanding future potential,” said Phyllis Strauss, Matthews distinguished professor of biology, who nominated Criscione for the award.

The focus of Criscione’s research project, which he detailed in his proposal, is to determine the mechanism of a DNA repair enzyme. His work expands on that of a former Northeastern doctoral candidate, Sophia Mundle, to identify whether human AP endonuclease, a DNA repair enzyme, works directly or indirectly to repair DNA lesions. For example, when chemotherapeutics damage DNA during cancer treatment, AP endonuclease can initiate repair of the damage. This process has the potential to impact how cancer is treated in the future.

Criscione worked at Genzyme Corporation’s during a co-op last fall as part of the Cancer Immunology Research Group, which is focused on drug development and design. His long-term research goals “involve a career in the biomedical sciences with a focus on drug discovery and therapeutic design,” said Criscione. “I hope to make a contribution to science and society by tackling difficult problems in the laboratory and providing a better understanding of disease.”

To win the scholarship, students must submit an application and a research proposal describing how this scholarship will help their careers. Sixteen Northeastern students submitted proposals this year to the Northeastern Goldwater Review Committee, and four of these were sent on to the Goldwater Foundation for consideration.

Thousands of students are nominated each year for this scholarship by faculty members at colleges across the United States, and no more than 300 are awarded, making this one of the top honors for undergraduates studying sciences. This year, 1,092 students were nominated and 278 were chosen to receive a scholarship, which covers tuition, fees, books, room and board, up to a maximum of $7,500 per year.

The Goldwater Foundation is a federally endowed agency established by Public Law 99-661 on November 14, 1986. The Scholarship Program honoring Senator Barry M. Goldwater was designed to foster and encourage 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.

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