For the second year in a row, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Undergraduate Scholarship Program has selected a University of North Georgia (UNG) biology student for a highly competitive scholarship that includes an internship, financial award and one year of full-time employment. Obadi Obadi, a senior on UNG's Gainesville Campus is one of only 11 students in the nation selected for the prestigious program and will begin a one-year internship with NIH in spring 2016.
"Obadi is one of our most dynamic students; he has excelled both inside and outside of the classroom through his leadership of the Honors Program, his work on the Orientation Leader Head Team, and his extended research in the Department of Biology," said Dr. Anastasia Lin, assistant dean of student research and scholarship at UNG. "This combination of extensive leadership, humble service, and academic acumen has positioned him for greatness."
The scholarship includes $20,000 for tuition and educational and living expenses for students pursuing careers in biomedical, behavioral, and social science health-related research. It also includes a 10-week summer laboratory experience that will allow Obadi to train as a paid summer research employee in an NIH research laboratory and full-time employment for one year at NIH after graduation.
Obadi, who is originally from Ethiopia, plans to graduate from UNG in December with a bachelor's degree in biology.
"This opportunity will be life-changing; it will open doors for me that I could have only dreamed of. I am excited to conduct research at an institution that has such a major impact on public health. The NIH will enable me to collaborate with many scientists and will help me narrow down what specific research topic I will focus on going forward," Obadi said. "I believe that becoming a doctor will enable me to fulfill both my passions — helping others and research. I aspire to open a free clinic that will serve the underprivileged and also stay involved in research that has big impacts on our daily lives."
Obadi, who is a former president of the Gainesville Campus Honors Program, has been heavily involved in undergraduate research during his time at UNG. The topic of greatest interest to him is studying how different plants and animals store and use pigments known as carotenoids. Carotenoids often have many functions in bodily processes such as vision, coloration and the absorption of ultraviolet light to protect the body from damage.
"The big picture in studying carotenoids is that they are non-polar pigments," Obadi said. "Many drugs are also non-polar, so by understanding how animals store and move carotenoids within their bodies, we can gain better insight into how to improve drug delivery within humans."
More than 200 students applied for the scholarship. Obadi will join fellow former Honors Program President Joshua McCausland, a 2015 biology graduate from UNG, who won the NIH scholarship in 2014.
"I am extremely grateful for all the help and support that I have received from UNG faculty and staff. It is the dedication of our faculty and staff that makes UNG such a unique university," Obadi said. "I could not have accomplished this without the help and support of Dr. Lin, who has empowered me to shoot for the stars, and Dr. Evan Lampert, my research mentor, who has taught me how to think outside the box and has showed me how wonderful scientific inquiry is."