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    Duquesne Junior Wins Prestigious Goldwater Scholarship

    A Duquesne University junior biochemistry major is one of 13 students from Pennsylvania selected to receive the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship for 2011.

    Sara Katrancha is the first Duquesne student to receive the award, which is the country's highest undergraduate honor for science, engineering, computer science and mathematics, and was chosen from more than 1,000 nominees for the $7,500 award.

    "She is Duquesne's first winner since these awards were initiated in 1989, and her achievement highlights our University's commitment to student research opportunities and the high quality of our student body," said Dr. Lewis Irwin, coordinator of the Office for National Fellowships.

    Katrancha, an Honors College student from Dunlo, Cambria County, has retained a perfect 4.0 grade point average while amassing many honors and awards. She said her research with Dr. Rita Mihailescu in the Bayer School, analyzing the RNA binding properties of the protein whose absence causes Fragile X syndrome, the most prevalent genetic cause of mental retardation, played an important role in earning this recognition.

    "She is very independent in her lab research, and all of her hard work is paying off," Mihailescu said. "As a researcher, you design experiments to address specific hypotheses, but many times things don't go according to the plan and, while this could take you into a new exciting direction, it can also be sometimes frustrating. Sara is able to stay with a problem and work diligently to resolve it, which is remarkable for an undergraduate. She has developed from not even knowing how to keep a pipette in her hand to carrying out complex projects independently, being able to analyze critically her results, and fit her data with complex equations to determine the parameters we are looking for."

    Katrancha plans to become a biomedical researcher "to help those in future generations with life-altering disabilities." She is motivated to research this area because her younger brother, Dustin, has a genetic disability.

    "As the first Duquesne University Goldwater Scholar, we are especially proud of Sara's accomplishment," said Dean David Seybert of the Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences. "While this honor is a remarkable individual accolade for Sara, it also reflects the far-reaching significance of the high quality research opportunities we offer to our science majors in the Bayer School."

    The daughter of Raymond and Kimberly Katrancha, she was one of only 282 college sophomores and juniors nationwide intending to pursue Ph.D.s to receive this award.

    Duquesne University

    Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic research universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. The University is nationally ranked by U.S. News and World Report and the Princeton Review for its rich academic programs in 10 schools of study for nearly 10,000 graduate and undergraduate students, and by the Washington Monthly for service and contributing to students' social mobility. Duquesne is a member of the U.S. President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction for its contributions to Pittsburgh and communities around the globe. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Princeton Review's Guide to Green Colleges acknowledge Duquesne's commitment to sustainability.