KSU’s first undergrad earns microbiology fellowship

KSU’s first undergrad earns microbiology fellowship

Kennesaw State student Daisy McGrath is the first and only student from Georgia to receive an undergraduate research fellowship at the American Society for Microbiology.

“This is the first time that anyone in attendance has been awarded this fellowship, so that alone feels pretty special,” McGrath said. “There are only 20 students in the whole nation who get awarded this scholarship, so it proves that KSU has the research foundation to obtain and inspire high levels of work that can be appreciated by top national science societies.”

The Milton, Georgia, native is a senior biology major with a concentration in biotechnology and a minor in mathematics.

“To me, this scholarship is recognition for my dedication to my research,” McGrath said. “It brings prestige to the project as well as a platform for more people to access what we [are] trying to accomplish, and hopefully come job time, it will be a good indicator for employment.”

The fellowship consists of working full time for 10 weeks on research with faculty mentor Tsai-Tien Tseng, associate professor of biology at KSU.

The 10-week work period took place this summer from May to August, but the fellowship also includes a grant for McGrath to attend the 2020 ASM Microbe Conference in Chicago to present her findings.

The project’s central goal is to discover and build the complete genomes of bacteriophages — viruses that infect bacteria.

“My central objective has been trying to build the complete genomes, as we had already identified the phages during my research last summer which I was able to do thanks to the Birla Carbon Scholars program here at KSU,” McGrath said. “Even though the fellowship is technically over, I’m still working hard to try finish my work.”

McGrath presented her preliminary results at the 2019 National Conference on Undergraduate Research held at KSU earlier this year and with Tseng at the recent 2019 ASM Microbe Meeting.

“If completely successful in my research pursuits, the databases I have built and the potential protocol of phage discovery will strengthen the foundations of genomic biology for future researchers,” McGrath said.

McGrath pays honor to Tseng who encouraged her to apply for the fellowship a second time.

With the help of her mentor and all of her research contributions, McGrath has been accepted to KSU’s accelerated bachelor’s master’s program in integrative biology for this fall semester.

According to KSU News, McGrath is the university’s first student enrolled in the accelerated graduate program.

McGrath has some words of encouragement for those looking to follow a similar path as her.

“The odds of getting this scholarship are low, but don’t let that deter you,” she said. “With or without a scholarship, working diligently on projects you care about will always propel your life forward, whether in an academic pursuit or [for] personal satisfaction, but, of course, the prestige and more importantly the cash of a scholarship are always fun.”

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