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Joseph Cammarata

College: Macaulay Honors College | Hunter College
Awards: Goldwater Scholarship, 2011

Making a Synthetic Biologist

Joseph Cammarata, of the Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College, is one of four CUNY juniors in 2011 to win highly competitive, Barry M. Goldwater Scholarships, the premier federally funded undergraduate scholarship to encourage graduate study in the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering.

The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation, established by Congress, awarded 275 scholarships for the 2011-2012 academic year to U.S. sophomores and juniors. They were selected from a field of 1,095 mathematics, science and engineering students who were nominated by their colleges and universities.

Virtually all intend to earn a PhD. The one- and two-year scholarships cover tuition, fees, books and room and board up to $7,500 a year. Many Goldwater Scholars have gone on to win prestigious post-graduate fellowships, including 77 Rhodes Scholarships (including four in 2011), 108 Marshall Awards and 98 Churchill Scholarships.

Cammarata, a junior majoring in biological sciences with a minor in chemistry, says he is "elated" and "incredibly grateful" to everyone who has helped him. He intends to pursue a PhD in synthetic biology and is assembling a college team for the annual iGEm synthetic biology competition.

He is off to a running start. Last summer, he was accepted into the 10-week Undergraduate Research Program at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and worked in the research lab of Zach Lippman.

He says this helped him to clarify and strengthen his motivation to pursue a career as a research scientist. "I learned not only a slew of new techniques but also acquired the discipline and confidence it takes to work independently," he says. "The time spent living with 25 other students in the program made it still clearer that a career in science was right for me."

He also has worked in the Hunter College research laboratory of biophotonics Professor Diana Bratu beginning in his first year. Bratu writes that "Joseph is the best junior undergraduate student I have ever worked with."

In fall 2010, he was accepted into the Howard Hughes Medical Institute undergraduate scholars program at Hunter, returning to the laboratory of Bratu.