Purdue’s Emily Erickson wins prestigious Churchill Scholarship

January 23, 2015  

Emily Erickson

Emily Erickson
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Emily Erickson, a Purdue University senior from Clarks Hill, Indiana, has won the Churchill Scholarship. Only 14 students nationwide receive this competitive award, which funds a one-year graduate degree in science, engineering or mathematics at Churchill College at University of Cambridge in Great Britain.

''Purdue was the only university in the country to have two Churchill Scholarship finalists,'' Purdue President Mitch Daniels said. ''We are as proud of Emily as her family and friends must certainly be. As our first Churchill winner since 1997, she has brought honor to our entire university, and it’s our intent to make sure she is followed by many more in this and other prestigious competitions. We wish Emily the best of luck and know she will be a tremendous Boilermaker ambassador.''

Erickson’s goal is to conduct research in Cambridge’s Department of Pathology that will eventually lead to the development of more effective treatments and therapeutic solutions for breast cancer.

Erickson, a biochemistry major in the College of Agriculture, has already gained experience in top laboratories at Purdue, Mayo Clinic and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

''Researching aspects of breast cancer in Dr. Karen Plaut’s lab at Purdue led me to spend a summer at the NIH,'' Erickson said. ''At the NIH, I studied the capacity of the mouse mammary microenvironment to redirect cancer cells to a cancer-free state. These experiences fueled my desire to pursue a career in breast cancer research. ''

Erickson grew up raising dairy goats on her family farm, which fueled her interest in science.

''Milking dairy goats every day initiated my interest in mammary biology research, and it was through this conduit that my research career began to take off,'' she said. ''At the NIH, I studied the regeneration of the mouse mammary gland and how the signaling involved in its regeneration may possess the capacity to redirect cancerous cells. This research also introduced me to mammary stem cells, the part they play in the normal development of the mammary gland, and their role in the progression of cancer.''

Churchill Scholars prove exceptional academic achievement and ''display a bewildering array of talents outside of academic pursuits, especially in music, athletics and social service, among other activities,'' according to the scholarship website. Erickson fulfills this description.

Her academic merits have led to several national distinctions, including the Goldwater Scholarship and Astronaut Scholarship. She also co-founded Purdue Goat Club, which she currently serves as president. The goat club hosts outreach activities such as ''Pet a Kid'' and conducts workshops across Indiana to educate youth and the larger community about goats and their world-wide role in agriculture and sustainability.

Erickson is principal violist in the Purdue Philharmonic Orchestra and plans to play her viola as part of Churchill College’s Musical Society, which coordinates several ensembles and performing groups of students and staff.

''I’m excited to continue my musical experiences at Cambridge, as music is such a big part of my life,'' she said.

Daniels has enhanced university support for students pursuing national and international scholarships and prioritized increasing awareness of those opportunities. Purdue’s Honors College and National and International Scholarships Office (NISO) have strengthened these efforts in a number of ways. NISO’s robust program navigates the path toward prestigious scholarships by working with faculty, offering information sessions and activity-based workshops, and providing individual advising to students with strong academic credentials and leadership qualities that extend far beyond the classroom.

The Winston Churchill Foundation’s closed competition of select universities allows each institution to nominate up to two students for the Churchill Scholarship. Purdue students undergo a rigorous application process through NISO. This year, both of Purdue’s nominees made it through a highly competitive field of applicants and became scholarship finalists. Steve Mussmann, a Purdue senior majoring in computer science, statistics and mathematics, was among only 20 Churchill Scholarship finalists.

Contacts: Rosanne Altstatt, Purdue National and International Scholarships Office, altstatt@purdue.edu

Asia Thomas, Purdue Honors College, arthomas@purdue.edu 

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