Senior bio major captures prestigious award

Each year, the American Society of Microbiology awards the Raymond W. Sarber Award to a student who demonstrates potential and excellence in research. This year, senior biology major Kara Hardwick was the only undergraduate student in the nation to receive the award.

In order to be considered for the award, Hardwick had to be nominated by a member of the American Society of Microbiology. Her nomination came from Dr. Victoria Frost with two support nominations from Dr. Matthew Heard and Dr. Heather Evans-Anderson.

After receiving the nomination, Hardwick had to fill out an application and write a personal statement about the research she has done. From there, the ASM looked over all of the nominations from across the country and selected the winners.

Hardwick will take a trip to Boston in May 2014 for the annual American Society of Microbiology meeting to be honored for winning the award. Winning the award comes with a $2,000 prize, which she was excited about.

Hardwick has spent the past year conducting research with Dr. Heard to find whether or not there is a correlation between the presence of introduced species and disease outbreaks in human and animal populations.

“Dr. Heard asked if I would like to work in his lab, and we ended up creating this project because I really care about disease outbreaks and I think disease is really interesting,” Hardwick said.

Hardwick was in Heard’s ecology class so they tied the subject of disease with introduced species in order to bring an ecological aspect to the research.

Heard said the Raymond W. Sarber Award is “intended to identify individuals who have the potential to be top-level research scientists,” which is a potential that he firmly believes Hardwick demonstrates.

Aside from her research with Heard, Hardwick wrote about being a teaching assistant to Dr. Frost’s microbiology classes in her application for the award. When Frost taught Hardwick, she immediately noticed her drive, which lead her to ask Hardwick to become her teaching assistant.

“I realized Kara’s potential very quickly and didn’t hesitate in asking her to be my future laboratory assistant in Micro 310,” Frost said. “Kara has since become an indispensable member of my team, invaluable for the smooth running of the microbiology course.”

Both her work as a teaching assistant and her research lead Frost to nominate Hardwick for the award.

“She has proved to be a responsible and genuinely appreciated colleague in both the laboratory and research areas of the Biology department,” Frost said. “It was for these reasons and more that I did not hesitate to recommend Kara for the American Society of Microbiology Raymond W. Sarber Award.”

Heard shared Frost’s sentiments and was equally impressed with her work ethic, which lead him to believe that she was worthy of the national award.

“I have been continually impressed by her ability to balance classes, be a teaching assistant for microbiology courses here at Winthrop and work on her own independent research project,” Heard said. “I can think of no one who is more deserving of this award than her.”

Hardwick completed her first research project during the summer after her freshman year. The research she conducted then was more on the molecular side of biology, but after branching out into her ecology class Hardwick realized the many possibilities ecology offered that she wanted to capitalize on.

Hardwick plans to continue doing research during her senior year and to maintain the best GPA she can. After receiving a degree from Winthrop, she hopes to continue her education in graduate school and has already begun searching for programs.

“I’m hoping to either get my Ph.D. in microbiology or infectious diseases,” Hardwick said. “So I’m kind of picking programs that are one or the other to apply to.”

Hardwick said that being the only undergraduate student to win the Raymond W. Sarber Award this year was an exciting and nerve-wracking experience and an honor that she never expected.

“I had no idea that it was even possible that I could get an award like this,” Hardwick said. “I didn’t really think that I had much of a chance. I guess taking away, I need to have more confidence in the work that I’m actually doing.”

Hardwick believes that the lesson she learned through receiving the award can and should extend to other students at Winthrop as well.

“I definitely feel like everybody should kind of believe in themselves,” Hardwick said. “We’re all here at Winthrop, we’re all learning these amazing things, and other places, other schools and other organizations think that what we’re doing is really impressive and we should definitely harness that.”

Source: By Casey White whitec@mytjnow.com

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