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Alumna Emma Keeler '19 Earns a Goldwater Scholarship at UPENN

Falmouth Academy alumna Emma Keeler ’19 is one of three undergraduates at the University of Pennsylvania School of Arts & Sciences to receive a 2021 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship. This is the most prestigious undergraduate scholarship in the natural sciences for sophomores or juniors planning research careers in mathematics, the natural sciences, or engineering. Keeler intends to pursue a Ph.D. in microbiology or virology and conduct applied microbiological research to inform the downstream development of diagnostics, vaccines, and therapeutics. The scholarship is awarded based on merit up to a maximum of $7,500 per academic year. “More than anything, I found the application process for the Goldwater Scholarship to be an invaluable exercise that forced me to step back and consider not only where I presently am in my path to becoming a scientist, but more so, where I hope to be in five, even ten years from now,” said Keeler. 

Keeler is concurrently pursuing a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in biology. She works with Dr. Frederic Bushman, the William Maul Measey Professor in Microbiology, studying the newly discovered viral family Redondoviridae. With Dr. Bushman, she has a first-author paper describing a novel virus, provisionally named Rengasvirus, awaiting publication. She also conducts computational work for two projects within the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Division of Infectious Diseases involving S. pneumoniae and SARS-CoV-2. This summer, her research in the Bushman Lab will be funded by the National Institutes of Health’s Undergraduate Translational Research Internship Program. 

While at Falmouth Academy, Keeler conducted research at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution under the direction of Falmouth Academy part-time faculty member and WHOI scientist Dr. Virginia Edgcomb. The paper describing the recovery of clinically relevant fungi from the hydrothermal sediments of Guaymas Basin is currently under peer-review, with Keeler listed as first author. In 2019, as a junior, Keeler placed second in the microbiology category at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair for her project, Bioprospecting for Benthic Fungi and Their Bactericidal Antibiotics. “I have said this more times than one would believe, but I truly owe everything to Falmouth Academy’s science fair,” said Keeler. “Not only did that experience show me how to engage in scientific inquiry, but more importantly, it pushed me to learn how to discuss my own research with others outside of my field — a skill that was vital for my Goldwater application.”

At Penn, Keeler is a University Scholar, Marks Family Writing Fellow, and a Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships Research Peer Advisor. She is the recipient of research grants from Penn’s College Alumni Society, as well as the Marjot Foundation, and Kurt Giessler Foundation. She is editor of the Penn Bioethics Journal and founder and president of the Penn Infectious Disease Club.
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