Elizabeth Sarkel named 2017 Goldwater Scholar

Elizabeth Sarkel

Elizabeth Sarkel, a junior biochemistry and molecular biology major from Columbus, Ohio has been named a 2017 Barry S. Goldwater Scholar for excellence in science. Sarkel was one of 240 students from around the country to earn a Goldwater Scholarship for the 2017-18 academic year.

The Goldwater Scholar

Sarkel was selected as a Goldwater Scholar based on academic merit from a field of 1,286 natural sciences, mathematics and engineering students from 470 institutions nationwide. The Goldwater Scholarship is the premier undergraduate award of its type in these fields.

The scholarship will cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year.

“I’m honored to be named a Goldwater Scholar,” Sarkel said.

“I look forward to spending my research career collaborating with the scientific community, including my Goldwater Scholar peers, in order to advance humanity’s understanding of the natural world.” Elizabeth Sarkel ('18)

Sarkel, a Reynolds Scholar, intends to pursue a Ph.D. in biochemistry, genetics or molecular biology.

Her research uses genetic, pharmacological and physiological techniques to characterize the molecular signaling mechanisms of root gravity response. “Plant roots must grow down with gravity in order to reach water and vital nutrients,” she said. “A root reoriented from the vertical initiates a signaling pathway that causes asymmetric growth so that the root can resume downward growth.”

At Wake Forest, her research has been conducted in the lab of Gloria Muday, professor of biology and director of the Center for Molecular Signaling.

“Working with Dr. Muday has taught me a lot about how to approach scientific questions and communicate my results with other scientists,” she said. “She has also encouraged me to present my research at scientific conferences, as well as collaborate with experts in gravitropism from other universities. I have learned a lot about being a productive part of the global scientific community while working in her lab.”

She will conduct research this summer on the gravity response of lateral roots at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna.

Muday said Sarkel came to Wake Forest with an interest in a research career and began attending her lab’s weekly research group meetings during her first year. Sarkel began working with Muday when she received a competitive Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship from the American Society of Plant Biologists.

“Elizabeth is a talented student and dedicated researcher,” Muday said. “She is hardworking and independent and is great at planning, executing, analyzing, and describing her experiments. I am pleased that Elizabeth’s talent in research was apparent to the Goldwater Committee and know that this is the first step in what will be an excellent research career.”

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Gloria Muday

Director, Center for Molecular Signaling and Professor of Biology

Muday pursues research on how plant hormones modulate root development.

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