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Two Miami students selected as Beckman Scholars 2012-2013
Dirk Auman, junior biochemistry and engineering physics double major
Auman, from Reynoldsburg, is a junior biochemistry and engineering physics double major, with a minor in computer science. He has been conducting independent study research with Chris Makaroff, chair and professor of chemistry and biochemistry, since his first semester at Miami. He is involved with Makaroff’s research on the isolation and characterization of genes required for meiosis in the plant Arabidopsis (member of the mustard family).
“Dirk is the type of student that faculty love to have in lab,” Makaroff said. “He is very bright, hard working, very independent and an excellent experimentalist.”
As a prospective student, Auman knew he wanted a chance to conduct undergraduate research in college. He attended a presentation by Makaroff and became interested in his research program. Soon after Auman started at Miami, he contacted Makaroff and eventually joined his laboratory.
“Dirk has plans to go to earn a Ph.D. in biochemistry and have a career in research. I have no doubt that he will be successful in this regard,” Makaroff said. “He has the intelligence, skills and work ethic to be successful independent scientist.”
Auman is a member of the university honors program and is involved in the Miami athletic bands, the Miami Chemical Society and the Alpha Lambda Delta honor society. He was also a 2012 Goldwater Scholar Honorable Mention.
Christian Cerda-Smith, senior biochemistry and zoology double major
Cerda-Smith, from Lakewood, is a senior biochemistry and zoology double major. He has been conducting independent study research with Michael Novak, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, since his second semester at Miami.
“The project he works in involves the synthesis and chemical characterization of the likely metabolite responsible for the antitumor activity of a class of benzothiazole-derived drugs that are currently under development,” Novak said.
“It appears from his work, and that of other researchers in my group, that the activity of these benzothiazole-based drugs depends on their ability to generate selective nitrenium ions. During the fall of 2011 Christian began product studies on his compounds that are essential to our understanding of the detailed chemistry of these drugs.”
“Christian is self-motivated and a quick learner,” Novak said. “He has had considerable success because he is willing to put in the time to get his work done.”
Cerda-Smith became involved in undergraduate research after being introduced to it during his chemistry seminar for first year students (required for chemistry and biochemistry majors). He studied faculty research profiles online and thought Novak’s research program would be a good fit.
He fit so well that he stayed on campus to work with Novak in the summer of 2010; last summer he was a Miami Undergraduate Summer Scholar.
Cerda-Smith is a member of the university honors program, and a mentor for both the Undergraduate Research and Mentoring (URM) program and the Chemistry Scholars program (both National Science Foundation-funded programs directed toward underrepresented/underserved students who major in selected STEM fields).