Three Elon seniors awarded the NIH Undergraduate Scholarship

Elon University seniors Christopher D’Inzeo, Samuel Ramirez and Genesis Tolbert have been awarded the NIH Undergraduate Scholarship.

Three Elon seniors — Christopher D’Inzeo, Samuel Ramirez and Genesis Tolbert — were awarded with scholarships from the National Institutes of Health Undergraduate Scholar Program.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Undergraduate Scholarship Program (UGSP) offers competitive scholarships to undergraduate students from disadvantaged backgrounds who are committed to careers in biomedical, behavioral and social science health-related research.

The program provides up to $20,000 per academic year in tuition, educational expenses and reasonable living expenses to scholarship recipients. Scholarships are awarded for one year and can be renewed for up to four years. Scholars will spend ten weeks during the summer following each year of academic support working in an NIH research laboratory. After graduation, scholars will spend one year for every year of support as a full-time employee conducting research at NIH.

Christopher D’Inzeo ‘24

Chris D’Inzeo, from West Haven, Connecticut, is a senior chemistry major who has sought out multiple research opportunities throughout his Elon undergraduate career. In addition to his research at Elon with Associate Professor of Chemistry Vickie Moore, which aims to understand the molecular mechanisms of chemotherapy resistance, he received a highly selective Amgen Scholarship to complete a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at Duke University.

At Duke, he worked on two different projects aimed at developing RNA as a therapeutic target. He also completed a summer research internship at UNC-Chapel Hill, working in synthetic organic chemistry with Assistant Professor of Chemistry Ahlam Armaly, who was then at UNC-Chapel Hill. D’Inzeo notes that his early engagement in undergraduate research “helped me understand what it is like to be a Ph.D. student, which helped confirm my hope to pursue graduate school after Elon.”

In addition to his rigorous course of study and research ambitions, and being a member of the Periclean Scholar program, D’Inzeo has held a variety of leadership positions on campus, including serving as the President of Elon’s chapter of the American Chemical Society, the Vice President of Phi Lambda Upsilon (the chemistry honor society), and the tenor drum section leader of the Fire of the Carolinas Marching Band.

For D’Inzeo, the NIH Undergraduate Scholarship affords him the freedom to focus exclusively on his academic goals, while looking forward to “spending a year after graduating in one of my dream labs and developing as a researcher.”

Samuel Ramirez ‘24

Sam Ramirez is a senior biology major from Charlotte, North Carolina, with concentrations in molecular biology and biotechnology, and three minors (chemistry, French and art) that demonstrate his wide scope of intellectual interests.

He learned of the NIH UGSP when Yuko Miyamoto, associate professor of biology, recommended him to the National and International Fellowships Office (NIFO). He quickly realized that the scholarship aligned with his career aspirations, which “include research and teaching in the biomedical sciences,” and that it also “offered a very attractive training opportunity that would set me up for success in a research career and a chance to explore the research landscape that may directly impact human health and well-being.”

Ramirez conducts undergraduate research with his mentor Associate Professor of Biology Jennifer Uno, exploring the interaction between the gut-brain axis and ethanol exposure in a zebrafish model. He also completed a summer program at the UF Scripps Research Institute, where he used in-vitro models to learn about molecular mechanisms of membrane biology and methods to characterize proteins. On campus, he organized Elon’s first student-led biology journal club last spring, helping students at earlier stages of their undergraduate research career to develop scientific literacy. He serves as the Co-President of the Elon Biology Club and is a member of the Tri-Beta Biology and Pi Delta Phi French Honor Societies.

Ramirez credits the close relationships he has developed with Elon faculty for much of his success, noting that his mentor-guided undergraduate research has “primarily prepared me to discuss research interests and consider scientific problems that make me excited.”

Genesis Tolbert ’24

A senior biochemistry major, Genesis Tolbert also hails from Charlotte, North Carolina. Her research projects have explored CPSC wiping methodology and nanoparticle exposure via dermal contact with coated surfaces and investigated how metals in sparklers affect our lungs.

She has clearly taken Elon’s emphasis on experiential learning to heart, having engaged in undergraduate research, studied abroad to London and a Research and Development internship at Bona, where she prepared products such as an all-purpose cleaner and conducted efficacy testing.

Genesis notes that the Odyssey Program provided her with a supportive group of mentors as well as a community, both of which “supported me through each step of my college journey.” Her leadership on campus includes serving as the Black Student Union co-vice president of Special Events, a resident assistant, an SGA senator and a general chemistry teaching assistant.

NIFO’s assistant director Nicole Galante suggested the NIH award to Tolbert, who describes the NIH as “an excellent place to revolutionize science and improve wellbeing.” The NIH undergraduate award aligns well with her career goals, which center on conducting research on toxicology, and her desire to contribute positively to her communities. She notes that the scholarship has “given me an opportunity to pursue one of my passions and hopefully spread awareness about health issues linked to our environment.”

All three award-winners encouraged other students to seek out external grants and fellowships, and to use the support networks that Elon provides to identify opportunities and seek guidance as they prepare their applications. Sam Ramirez exhorted students “to silence the little anxious voice of insecurity in your head and shoot for the stars! Any opportunity you encounter, you never know what may come of it. All it takes is one ‘yes’ to go somewhere and learn something new.”

To learn more about the NIH Undergraduate Scholarship program and other internationally competitive awards, visit the National and International Fellowships website.