(Posted March 3, 2015)

Daniella Rodriguez in Granada, Spain
Daniella Rodriguez in Granada, Spain

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Daniella Rodriguez, a junior at Juniata College studying biochemistry from Albuquerque, N.M., was recently awarded an Exceptional Research Opportunities Program award from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which will provide her with a summer research fellowship with a HHMI scientist at Johns Hopkins University in summer 2015.

Rodriguez, the daughter of Agnes Noonan, of Albuquerque, and Victor and Rachel Rodriguez, also of Albuquerque, is a 2012 graduate of Sandia High School.

The Exceptional Research Opportunities Program, started by HHMI in 2003, selects motivated undergraduate researchers from groups traditionally underrepresented in the sciences, or from disadvantaged backgrounds, for outstanding summer research experiences that encourage them to pursue academic careers in science.

"As a freshman, I was already being offered to apply for research positions in labs. Juniata professors always send out emails with different opportunities in a various areas," Rodriguez says. "It's pretty incredible that we not only get the guidance of the faculty, but the opportunity to use equipment that other students rarely get to see until graduate school. It's honestly awesome to learn about techniques and theories, and then get the chance to reinforce that material in a laboratory setting -- it's the perfect combination of kinesthetic, visual and auditory learning."


In the coming weeks, Rodriguez will be matched with an HHMI scientist. HHMI scientists carry out cutting-edge research at universities, research institutes and medical centers throughout the United States.

"It's pretty incredible that we not only get the guidance of the faculty, but the opportunity to use equipment that other students rarely get to see until graduate school. It's honestly awesome to learn about techniques and theories, and then get the chance to reinforce that material in a laboratory setting -- it's the perfect combination of kinesthetic, visual and auditory learning."

Daniella Rodriguez, junior, Albuquerque, N.M.


The award also provides transportation and housing costs, as well as a $5,000 stipend. Students who participate in the program also are eligible for HHMI Gilliam Fellowships if they choose to pursue graduate education.

Rodriguez has participated in Juniata's undergraduate research program since her freshman year. Most recently, she has participated in a research project this year studying mitophagy in yeast strains with Carlos Santos Ocaña, a biochemistry professor at the Universidad Pablo de Olavide, in Seville Spain. Previously, in spring semester 2014, Rodriguez worked with Mark Peterson, HHMI postdoctoral fellow in biology, analyzing sex differences in dark-eyed junco birds. In her freshman year she also worked on a research project with Ruth Reed, professor emeritus of chemistry.

The Juniata junior also studied abroad in Orizaba, Mexico as part of a 10-week summer program in 2014. While in Orizaba, she completed a six-week internship at a local hospital.

She is active on the Juniata campus, participating in Spanish Club, Big Brothers/Big Sisters and Chemistry Club. She also was named to Tri-Beta, the national honor society for biology

Contact Gabe Welsch at welschg@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.