Brooklyn, N.Y.—Senior Catherine W. Chan has been selected as a 2012 recipient of CUNY’s Jonas E. Salk Scholarship, an award given annually to eight students who have the potential to make significant contributions to medical research. The scholars are selected by a panel of distinguished physicians — all Salk alumni — based on the quality of their research, academic excellence and recommendations by professors and mentors.
Chan was tapped largely on the strength of research she conducted with Luis E.N. Quadri, a professor in the Department of Biology , studying organisms in an attempt to discover a new vaccine or drug to treat tuberculosis.
Salk, a 1934 City College graduate, developed the polio vaccine in 1955.
Chan is a student in the Coordinated B.A.-M.D. Program and will start medical school next year at SUNY Downstate. She has a near-perfect grade point average, is a member of the women’s swim team, and was recently chosen as one of 10 finalists nationwide for the Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar Award.
Chan’s experience in Quadri’s microbiology lab was an eye-opener. “It was very tedious. We had to double check our work a lot, but at the end of the day I learned so much, and it really gave me some perspective on what it takes to get medicine made,” says Chan, who has extensive experience volunteering at hospitals and other medical facilities, but for whom this was a first stab at medical research.
For his part, Quadri states that Chan exceeded all his expectations. “She has a remarkable drive and professionalism very rarely seen in undergraduates, or even in graduate students,” he says.
Chan says she is probably veering more toward becoming a practicing doctor — she has a strong interest in pediatrics and has done a lot of work with children with developmental disabilities — rather than conducting medical research, but she is keeping all doors open.
Going into medicine “was never really a choice I made so much as a passion I always had,” says the Macaulay Honors College student. “I know it’s cliché to say, but I just like helping people.”
Salk may have been cut from the same cloth. The old yarn goes that he turned down a city parade in honor of his important discovery and asked that the money be used for scholarships instead.