Rosa Leon ’14, who graduated this past May with a dual major in biology and neuroscience, received a diversity supplement to Sandra and James Hewett’s National Institute of Health grant to support her research. This supplement will allow Leon to continue the studies she initiated as an undergraduate in the laboratory of James Hewett, professor of biology in the College of Arts and Sciences, now in collaboration with Sandra Hewett, Beverly Petterson Bishop Professor of Neuroscience and professor of biology. This is a mentored award, meaning that Leon will continue to work closely with both James and Sandra Hewett for the next 12 months, melding his work on epilepsy research with her work in neurodegeneration.
“Rosa was an outstanding undergraduate student and we have no doubt she will continue to do great work in the lab during her gap year,” Sandra Hewett says. “Both Jim and I are thrilled she was awarded this supplement, specifically designed to support outstanding students from backgrounds traditionally under-represented in science so that they may better prepare for post-graduate education. We are all very excited about this award.”
Leon, who will soon begin applying to graduate school, can add this award to her already impressive resume. Recently, Leon was the only undergraduate among 12 people invited to present research at the New England Science Symposium held at Harvard University Medical School. She has also presented her work at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) twice. Both times her attendance was sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences.
Leon attributes her success largely to the mentors that she had during her undergraduate years in the College of Arts and Sciences.
“I am where I am today thanks to my mentors who took the time to talk to me, get to know me, share their experience with me, and guide me. The College of Arts and Sciences faculty helped me obtain unforgettable and significant experiences during my undergraduate career. Along with helping me apply and gain acceptance into the ABRCMS, they also helped me obtain an internship with the Onondaga medical examiner's office when I expressed an interest in forensic pathology.”
Originally from Lima, Peru, Leon moved to New Jersey when she was eight years old. She also lived in Puerto Rico for several years before enrolling in Syracuse University. After completing her research at Syracuse University, Leon plans to attend graduate school. Her long-term goals include a Ph.D. in neuroscience and a career in academia, teaching and running a laboratory.