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Michelle Munyikwa is College's first UNCF-Merck Fellow

  • Doing research
    Doing research  Michelle Munyikwa '11 shows Lizabeth Allison where she found a collection of misfolded proteins known as aggresomes. Munyikwa has been working in Allison's lab on the movement of components within the cell.  
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Michelle Munyikwa ’11 is the first student at the College of William and Mary to be named a UNCF • Merck Undergraduate Fellow.

She is one of only 15 U.S. recipients of the award, which is intended to encourage African American undergraduate students interested in biomedical sciences. Munyikwa’s award includes an impressive slate of benefits. It will fund up to $25,000 of her college tuition and fees. She also will be able to participate in two summer internships in Merck’s state-of-the art industrial laboratories, mentored by a Merck scientist, and will receive two summer internship research stipends totaling at least $10,000.

"This is an incredible recognition for Michelle. She is truly an amazing student and the Merck scholarship is a testament to her hard work, diligence and potential," said Fanchon Glover, William & Mary's assistant to the president for diversity and community initiatives. "I look forward to following her exciting journey."

Munyikwa was born in Zimbabwe, and now lives with her family in Lewes, Delaware. At the College, she is an anthropology and interdisciplinary studies major concentrating in biochemistry. She has been working in the lab of Lizabeth Allison, Hamilton Professor and chair in William & Mary’s Department of Biology.

“For me, the Merck fellowship means that I get to do the kind of research that I think I would like to do for my career,” Munyikwa said. “I like basic science research, but I am also curious about translational research and I am looking forward to experiencing that over the next two summers.”

She came to William & Mary as part of the College’s elite Murray Scholars Program, which selects outstanding high school seniors for inclusion in a set of coordinated, research-intensive, faculty-mentored experiences. Munyikwa began doing laboratory research with Allison in 2008, becoming involved in a number of studies involving the biochemistry of cells. She working in the lab full time during the summers of 2008 and 2009. Allison said that the UNCF • Merck Fellowship will give Munyikwa additional experience beyond what she has gained in the labs of William & Mary’s Integrated Science Center.

“Simply put, the Merck scholarship is an ‘investment for life,’” Allison said. “This initiative is instrumental in shaping the rest of a young scientist’s career because of the institutional support, hands-on training and research opportunities, and networking connections.”

The UNCF • Merck award also includes a department grant of up to $10,000 for research.

In addition to her academic and research work, Munyikwa has been involved in campus advocacy groups including Students for Stop Hunger Now and Vox: Voices for Planned Parenthood. She says that after she graduates she intends to continue her career as a scientist.

“I think, in the not too very distant future, I will become faculty at a medical school,” she says. “My overall career goal is to enter the field of academic medicine by way of medical school and master’s programs.”