Two UNC Chemistry students awarded prestigious Goldwater Scholarship

April 15, 2020

Content source: The Office of Distinguished Scholarships

Image, from left: Grace Bergan and Lauren Lim

By Jordan Schroeder

Two University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill students are recipients of the prestigious Barry Goldwater Scholarship.

The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation was established by Congress in 1986 to serve as a living memorial to honor the lifetime work of Senator Barry Goldwater. The scholarship is given to college sophomores and juniors who intend to pursue research careers in the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering. The scholarship provides up to $7,500 a year to help recipients cover costs associated with tuition, mandatory fees, books, room and board. Sophomores receive support in both their junior and senior years. Juniors receive support in their senior year. Approximately 450 students nationwide receive a Goldwater Scholarship each year.

Virginia native, Grace Bergan, is a rising senior at UNC-Chapel Hill, majoring in Chemistry and minoring in Russian Culture. Her overall GPA is 3.8, and in 2019, she was awarded the Tanya R. Ellison Scholarship and inducted into Phi Beta Kappa.

Bergan has worked in several labs both at UNC and in summer internships at NIH and a biotech company called Seattle Genetics. Most recently, she has conducted a research project in the UNC-Chapel Hill laboratory of Ronald Gallant Distinguished Professor, Dr. Jeffrey Johnson, on the synthesis of complex organic molecules. Dr. Stephen Rogers, Associate Professor of Biology at UNC-Chapel Hill, says, “Grace Bergen is a talented young colleague with a strong record of research experience and a high trajectory for success in her scientific career.” Dr. Joel R. Courter of Seattle Genetics described Bergan as “…both the most talented experimentalist, as well as the most capable of communicating her results.” Bergan has already published as co-author on one manuscript.

Bergan is interested in exploring the crossroads between organic chemistry and medicine, developing robust and efficient reactions using green techniques for biologically relevant molecules. She intends to pursue a Ph.D. in organic chemistry and then become a chemist in the pharmaceutical/biotechnology industry, potentially combining her research and teaching aspirations as a professor at the university level.

Originally from North Carolina, Lauren Lim is a rising junior and honors student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, majoring in Chemistry. Lim is currently Vice President of the Undergraduate Research Society, providing mentorship to other undergraduates interested in research. She is also active in Alpha Chi Sigma, the professional chemistry fraternity, where she is involved in many of the science outreach and service events. Last semester, she tutored a local refugee family to provide children with academic assistance and has been recognized with the Presidential Gold Service Award. Currently, she is part of the UNC Symphony Orchestra and volunteers at the UNC hospital.

Dr. Stephen Rogers, Associate Professor of Biology at UNC-Chapel Hill, describes Lim as a “burgeoning scientific talent,” who has accrued a significant amount of experience in the lab at a very early stage. Lim has worked in Professor Matthew Redinbo’s lab at UNC to study how the gut microbiome metabolizes estrogen. Understanding how the bacterial enzymes that process estrogens function will provide insights into disfunction of the microbiome can be induced by drugs to trigger toxic gastrointestinal effects. Lim also spent a summer at MIT in Robert Griffin’s lab using NMR to study the structures of amyloid proteins. Her contributions to this research program have led to her co-authorship on two publications, with more anticipated in the near future.

Lim intends to pursue dual M.D/Ph.D. degrees to conduct research as a physician-scientist in biomedical science with a focus on the structure and function of proteins in diseases, such as the role of beta-amyloid protein in Alzheimer’s disease, in order to develop novel inhibitors to treat patients with such diseases. In addition to research, she intends to teach at the graduate or medical school level in order to share her knowledge and expertise with future generations so that they may be inspired to take up research themselves.