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Department of Animal Sciences


Undergraduate Fellowship Recipient Takes Advantage of Scientific Collaboration

Sep. 24, 2012

Stephen Firkins, a biochemistry undergraduate student mentored by Dr. Thaddeus Ezeji, Assistant Professor, Department of Animal Sciences (Wooster), is a 2012 recipient of an American Society for Microbiology (ASM) Undergraduate Research Fellowship. Firkins worked last summer under Dr. Ezeji in co-mentor Dr. Venkat Gopalan’s biochemistry lab in Columbus; his research continues during the school year. The title of his research project is: Towards biofuel production: bioprospecting endophytes for novel cellulases and ß-glucosidases.  Ezeji said they will submit an abstract for a poster presentation at the 113th ASM General Meeting in Denver, CO, May 2013, which Firkins will attend with Ezeji. The fellowship provided a stipend, a two-year ASM student membership, and travel expenses to the 2013 meeting. More information about the award is provided in the press release below. Firkins plans to graduate spring semester 2013 with a BS in Biochemistry and then go on to medical school. Firkins originally contacted Dr. Ezeji about doing a summer project in biofuel research, and Ezeji, an active member of ASM—a prerequisite for mentors—suggested that he apply for a fellowship to fund a stipend. They developed a research plan and submitted an application, which was funded prior to last summer. Ezeji’s research is in the area of fermentation biology focusing on research and outreach in microbial conversion of animal and food industry wastes to bio-energy and other value-added products. His research emphasizes metabolomics and processes regulating the conversion of agricultural byproducts, co-products, or wastes into biofuel and value-added products. He recruited Gopalan, Professor in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry and a collaborator with Ezeji on other recently funded projects, to be a co-mentor, which allowed Firkins to carry out his research in Columbus during the summer and into the school year. Gopalan’s research is in the area of structure and function of ribonuclease P, an enzyme that has both RNA and protein moieties, and in understanding how the protein cofactor facilitates RNA catalysis and, in particular, how it can contribute to screening and identifying novel cellulases and ß-glucosidases from endophytes with potential application to the biofuel industry.


WASHINGTON, D.C. –9/11/2012--The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) has selected Stephen Firkins from Ohio State University as a 2012 award recipient of the ASM Undergraduate Research Fellowship. This fellowship is aimed at highly competitive students who wish to pursue graduate careers (Ph.D. or M.D./Ph.D.) in microbiology. Fellows have the opportunity to conduct full time summer research at their institution with an ASM mentor and present their research results at the 113th ASM General Meeting in Denver, CO if their abstract is accepted. Each fellow receives up to a $4,000 stipend, a two-year ASM student membership, and funding for travel expenses to the ASM Presentation Institute and 113th ASM General Meeting. This year, one hundred twenty-two applications were received and fifty-six were awarded. Of the fifty-six awardees, thirty-four students were from doctoral/research universities— extensive institutions, five students was from doctoral/research universities—intensive institutions, seven students were from a master’s college and university institutions, eight were from baccalaureate colleges, one student from a comprehensive master’s II institution, and one student from a specialized institution Among the fifty-six awardees, eight additional students were recognized as Honorable Mentions. Dr. Thaddeus Ezeji from Ohio State University is Stephen Firkins’s mentor. The title of the research project is: Towards biofuel production: bioprospecting endophytes for novel cellulases and ß-glucosidases. The American Society for Microbiology (ASM), headquartered in Washington, DC, is the oldest and largest single biological membership organization, with over 40,000 members worldwide. Please visit for more information on this fellowship.