Carnegie Mellon University Department of Chemistry

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Halimatu Mohammed Receives National GEM Consortium Fellowship

photo of Halimatu MohammedHalimatu Mohammed, a first-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Chemistry, has received a GEM Fellowship from the National Consortium for Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Engineering and Science, Inc. (GEM). GEM Fellows are selected based on an academic record that indicates the ability to successfully pursue graduate studies in engineering or the natural and physical sciences, including chemistry, physics, earth sciences, mathematics, biological sciences, and computer science. The mission of the National GEM Consortium is to enhance the value of the nation’s human capital by increasing the participation of underrepresented groups (African Americans, American Indians, and Hispanic Americans) at the master’s and doctoral levels in engineering and science.

Halimatu is currently a student in Bruce Armitage’s group. She is working to improve the selectivity of PNA binding to specific sequences of DNA and RNA. PNAs have been shown previously to form high affinity guanine quadruplexes with RNA and DNA, a discovery that may find application in biomedical technologies, including gene expression profiling, antisense technology and regulation of gene expression. However, these PNAs also have the ability to bind complementarily to other off target RNA and DNA sequences. To minimize PNA’s binding affinity to off-target sequences, Halimatu will use backbone-modified PNAs originally developed in Danith Ly’s lab in order to improve the selectivity in forming heteroquadruplexes with the intended targets.

Halimatu is also a recipient of numerous previous honors, including an American Chemical Society Scholarship, United Negro College Fund-Merck Undergraduate Research Scholarship and a National Society of Black Engineers Undergraduate Research Award. Her long-term plan, in addition to the Ph.D. in Chemistry, is to complete an M.D. to become a physician-scientist.

GEM Fellows receive part of their stipend and tuition support from the GEM Consortium coupled with a guarantee of support from their home university for five years. GEM Fellows are also provided a summer internship experience through a GEM Employer Member.  Halimatu’s internship is sponsored by DuPont in Wilmington, Delaware, where she will work in the Biochemical Sciences and Engineering section during Summer 2007.


April 11, 2007