Michelle Munyikwa


Murray 1693 Scholar


Lewes, Delaware (Cape Henlopen High School)

Why W&M?

I was really attracted to the amazing people that I met here during my visit. Though everyone was impressive in very diverse ways, they were also down to earth and fun to be around. I really felt like I would fit in well at William & Mary socially. Academically, I wanted the opportunity to be somewhere where I could do important, meaningful scholarship in multiple fields while also being able to get to know each and every one of my professors. I saw William & Mary as the perfect size and atmosphere for me to achieve my goals. William & Mary is more than just my college--it's now my home and it means more to me than I ever imagined it would.


I was a double major in Interdisciplinary Studies (self-designed) and Anthropology. As a freshman, I found myself interested in both biology and chemistry, and the intersections of the two. I decided that while majoring in one or the other would give me a firm grounding the hard sciences, I would better serve my interests by choosing to design my own major. Thus I created a major for myself in biochemistry and molecular biology, which allowed me to draw from courses in biology, chemistry, physics, and math to understand the biological processes that interested me.

On the other hand, I've always been interested in people and cultures around the world and how we can understand the fundamental principles of human existence by studying how people live and interact in different places and times. My other academic interests were in Women's Studies, foreign languages, public health, and literature.

Extracurriculars at W&M

One of the groups that shaped my experience was an organization called Students for Stop Hunger Now, which I led. We worked to raise money and awareness about international and domestic poverty and hunger. Stop Hunger Now, our parent organization, believes that combating hunger and lack of education is vitally important - to that end, we worked with them each year to bring a packaging event to campus. We packaged thousands of inexpensive meals to send to school feeding programs around the world.

I also served as Vice President of Vox: Voices for Planned Parenthood, which worked to bring pro-choice activism, as well as vital education to campus. We worked towards informing the campus of legislation on the state and national level that affects their rights, as well as fundraise for important causes like Avalon, the local shelter for abused women. We also put on two productions annually, most notably The Vagina Monologues, which I took part in for two years.

Other more minor extracurriculars included Beledi: belly dancing club, taking private piano lessons, and my research in the biology department.

Michelle with LizResearch at W&M
  • During the summer after my freshman year, I began work in Lizabeth Allison's lab in the biology department studying aggregates of misfolded proteins called aggresomes. I spent the summers of 2008 and 2009 at William & Mary doing full time research. Both were supported by a generous grant given to William & Mary by the HHMI. I have since begun on work on a rather exciting project that is a collaborative effort between Dr. Allison and Shanta Hinton of Hampton University.
  • Read more about Michelle's research in the Allison lab
Where Am I Now?

I am in medical school at Penn on a fully-funded Gamble scholarship. I've also started a M.D./Ph.D. program in Anthropology as well. My research project from W&M has been published, and my former W&M professor Shanta Hinton says another paper may be on the way. For those wanting to know what I was doing in the lab all those years, it is easily obtained on the web: Bondzi, C., Brunner, A.M., Munyikwa, M.R., Connor, C.D., Simmons, A.N., Stephens, S.L., Belt, P.A., Roggero, V.R., Mavinakere, M.S., Hinton, S.D., Allison, L.A. 2011. Recruitment of the oncoprotein v-ErbA to aggresomes. Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology, 332, 196-212.