April 13, 2011
An undergraduate biology student at St. John’s was awarded a highly
competitive 2011 Goldwater Scholarship — the nation’s “premier
undergraduate award” in the sciences — based in part on his
contributions to NIH-funded cancer research at the University.
Adeel Zubair ‘12C, a junior majoring in
History, is the first St. John’s student to win the prestigious
undergraduate award. There were 275 Goldwater Scholarship winners
from a field of 1,095 mathematics, science and engineering students
nominated by faculty at their colleges and universities.
Reflecting St. John’s emphasis on supporting undergraduate
research, Adeel has worked since his freshman year on a research
team led by
Ivana Vancurova, Ph.D., Professor of
Biological Sciences. The team is studying the molecular
mechanisms that lead to “suicide” in cancer cells.
“Our entire University community joins in congratulating Adeel
for this singular achievement,” said Julia
A. Upton, RSM, Ph.D., Provost. “Being awarded the Goldwater
Scholarship testifies to Adeel’s hard work and considerable talents
— and, of course, to the outstanding research opportunities
available to undergraduates at St. John’s.”
Established by Congress in 1986, the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship
and Excellence in Education Foundation encourages excellence in
the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering by awarding
scholarships to outstanding students majoring in those fields. The
Goldwater Scholarships has awarded approximately $50 million to
sophomores and juniors in the sciences who have a minimum 3.8 GPA
and are in the top 25 percent in their class.
A Record Year
Adeel earned another top honor this spring when he was selected
together with Subrata Manna ‘13G, a doctoral biology student, to
present their research at Columbia
University’s Spring Undergraduate Research Symposium on April
3. Sponsored by the Columbia Undergraduate Science Journal, the
symposium is a forum for outstanding undergraduate research at
“pre-eminent” Northeastern research institutions.
“Adeel’s success comes at a time when St. John’s students are
receiving a record number of top academic awards,” said Konrad
Tuchscherer, Ph.D., Associate Professor of History. As Director of
St. John’s Graduate
Admissions Assistance Program (GAAP) and Assistant Provost for
External Scholarships and Fellowships, Dr. Tuchscherer also helps
graduate and undergraduate students secure major fellowships and
This year, Dr. Tuchscherer noted, five St. John’s students are
finalists. One of the candidates has already received an award to
study in the Dominican Republic. Another finalist, who plans to
study in the Czech Republic, is an alternate. Last year, three St.
John’s students received Fulbrights.
“This kind of success doesn’t come out of the blue,” said Dr.
Tuchscherer. “St. John’s has always provided students with
opportunities to conduct research, but lately there is a redoubled
commitment to promoting and supporting student research. It’s
evident in achievements like Adeel’s.”
Adeel thanked the faculty at St. John’s — especially Dr.
Vancurova — for making his research possible. “The professors and
doctoral students in the Biological Sciences are very supportive,”
said Adeel. “Dr. Vancurova, in particular, will go out of her way
to help her students. I’m very grateful to be able to conduct
research with her.”
“Adeel is one of the best undergraduate biology majors in our
department,” said Dr. Vancurova. “He is a wonderful role model for
other St. John’s students, demonstrating the kind of success they
can achieve as students, researchers and scientists.”
When he first approached Dr. Vancurova about research
opportunities in her lab, Adeel was still a freshman at St. John’s.
“I read about her work online, and it was something that truly
interested me. I e-mailed her, and she immediately welcomed me into
her office. She interviewed me, explained the work and started me
as an assistant in the lab.”
Learning About Research — Step-by-Step
Though Adeel had conducted clinical research as a student at East
Meadow High School, Dr. Vancurova’s laboratory trained him in the
techniques of basic science research. “There are differences
between clinical and basic science research,” he explained. “The
researchers in the lab really took me under their wing. They showed
me, step-by-step, how to use the pipette and other lab equipment as
well as master other aspects of basic science research.”
Dr. Vancurova received a three-year, $250,000 National Institutes of Health grant
to conduct research on the processes regulating “transcription of
survival genes” in cancer cells. The research focuses on molecular
mechanisms that regulate apoptosis (programmed cell death) of
cancer cells. “It seemed like an ideal project for Adeel,” said Dr.
When Adeel decided to apply for the Goldwater Scholarship, Dr.
Vancurova assisted him with the science portion of the application.
Then Adeel went to the GAAP Office at St. John’s, where Dr.
Tuchscherer and Jennifer Cristalli, Assistant Director of GAAP,
helped him complete the application, which they mailed to the
Spending at least four days a week working in Dr. Vancurova’s
laboratory, Adeel also takes advantage of the many campus life
activities available at St. John’s. A new member of the President’s
Society — the top undergraduate honors society at St. John’s —
Adeel is on the Board of the Biology Students Organization and is a
member of the psychology and history clubs.
Though Adeel was accepted to all the universities to which he
applied, he was drawn to St. John’s focus on service. “I’m also a
huge fan of the basketball team,” he said.
The Graduate Admissions Assistance Program (GAAP) at St. John’s
is dedicated to helping graduate and undergraduate students apply
for Fulbrights as well as Rhodes, Marshall, Goldwater and other
prestigious scholarships. To learn more, contact GAAP at (718)
990-6165 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.