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March 8, 2010

Three from CCNY Win in CUNY Nobel Science Challenge


Elaine Cheng (left), Hyeondo Hwang and Sidra Javed; winners from CCNY in the 2009 CUNY Nobel Science Challenge

Three undergraduate students at The City College of New York (CCNY) earned prizes in the 2009 CUNY Nobel Science Challenge.  Freshman Hyeondo Hwang took first place in the Chemistry category.  Sidra Javed, a fourth-year student in The Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education, and Elaine Cheng, a fifth-year Sophie Davis student, took second and third prize, respectively in the Physiology or Medicine category.  The awards were presented at a ceremony Thursday, February 25.

The CUNY Nobel Science Challenge invites CUNY undergraduate students to submit essays of 1,000 – 1,500 words that described the science behind one of the year’s Nobel Prizes.  Essays were received from 110 students and judged by panels of CUNY faculty members.

Mr. Hwang wrote about the research by Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, Thomas A. Steitz and Ada E. Yonath on the structure and function of the ribosome and the impact it may have on society in the future.  A native of South Korea who came to the United States in 2002, he is a graduate of the Bergen Academy and resident of Palisades Park, N.J.  He plans to major in biochemistry and works in the laboratory of Professor George John.  His long-range goal is to become a researcher in a chemistry-related field.

Both Ms. Javed and Ms. Cheng wrote about the discovery by Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Carol W. Greider and Jack W. Szostak of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase.

Ms. Javed said she decided to enter the competition because the work done by the researchers in her category “aligns with some of my personal academic interests, and I thought that writing an essay explaining the significance of this research in a manner that can be understood by everyone was an important thing to do.”  A resident of Cortlandt Manor, N.Y., and graduate of Walter Panas High School, she will transfer to Albany Medical College in 2011 to complete her medial studies with the goal of becoming a primary care specialist.  

“It was very interesting to learn about the research that led to their groundbreaking discovery,” added Ms. Cheng.  “Explaining science to a lay person makes science more accessible to everyone.”  Ms. Cheng, who will transfer to Dartmouth Medical School this June for her final two years of medical school, is a resident of the Fresh Meadows section of Queens and a graduate of Hunter High School.