Holy Cross Receives Grant to Promote Women in the Sciences

Two incoming seniors awarded the first scholarships

WORCESTER, Mass. – The College of the Holy Cross has received a major grant from the Henry Luce Foundation in the amount of $420,532 to encourage women undergraduates to major in the physical sciences, including mathematics, computer science, physics, and chemistry. The first Clare Booth Luce Scholars are Lindsey Tonge and Annie Cervin, both members of the class of 2011.

The Clare Boothe Luce Scholarship is awarded to two women majoring in the physical sciences who are entering their fourth year of study at the College. The scholarship will cover tuition, room and board, and fees. In addition, the College will support Luce Scholars with paid research fellowships during the summer prior to the start of their senior year.

Tonge, a chemistry major, has received a fellowship from the American Cancer Society to conduct cancer research at UMass Medical School under Nobel Prize Winner Craig Mello.  “This summer I am doing research on RNA interference (RNAi), which is one way the body regulates cells and tells certain genes to ‘turn on’ or ‘turn off,’” explains Tonge.  “Without RNAi our cells would rapidly grow out of control.  Therefore, there is great interest in RNAi and its implications in possible cures for cancer.”

During the school year, she works under Sarah Petty, assistant professor of chemistry, researching protein misfolding.  “For example, cataracts are actually misfolded proteins that fell out of solution, causing the milkiness in the eye,” she explains. “For the most part, it is difficult for a misfolded protein to regain function. However, we have found that under certain circumstances our model protein can actually regain function.” She and Petty hope that if they can understand how and why their model protein folds and refolds, they can then apply that understanding to systems in the body and one day doctors may be able to reverse cataracts instead of having to remove them.

On campus, Tonge is a co-chair of the Science Ambassadors, a student group dedicated to making science fun for kids of all ages. “We conduct shows in Worcester schools and at Holy Cross,” she says.

She is an altar server coordinator, a member of the Holy Cross Goodtime Marching and Pep Band, and a volunteer in the Worcester community.

Upon graduation, she plans to go to graduate school and obtain her Ph.D. in chemistry.

Cervin, a mathematics major, will be spending the summer at the University of New Hampshire in NASA's Research and Discover Program.  She will be researching how disasters that kill a marine population in one location can affect that same population in another location far away. “I hope to help figure out where marine protected areas should be located to most effectively replenish dying marine populations,” she explains.

At the end of the summer she will present her research at NASA's Goddard Center in Maryland.

During the school year, she will be working with John Little, professor of mathematics at the College, on comparing different error-correcting codes. “These codes are used in many popular devices like CD audio systems,” she says.

On campus, Cervin will serve as the lead organizer (2010-11) of Student Programs for Urban Development (SPUD), the largest student-run community service organization on campus. She is co-chair of Operation Smile; and a member of the Purple Key Society and Alpha Sigma Nu, the national Jesuit honor society.

Upon graduation, she hopes to continue her education while serving others.

Related Information

* Clare Boothe Luce Scholarships for Women in the Physical Sciences