Genevieve Allen, a Dean’s Scholars Honors Biology major at The University of Texas at Austin, has been selected as a 2011 Truman Scholar.
Allen, a native of Washington D.C., was one of 60 Scholars from among 602 candidates nominated by 264 colleges and universities. Recipients must be US citizens, have outstanding leadership potential and communication skills, be in the top quarter of their class and be committed to careers in government or the not-for-profit sector.
Each scholarship provides up to $30,000 for graduate study, as well as leadership training, career and graduate scho
ol counseling, special internship opportunities within the federal government, and priority admission and supplemental financial aid at some premier graduate institutions.
“Genevieve is obviously quite gifted academically,” says Dr. David Laude, senior associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Natural Sciences. “What sets her apart, however, is that she combines her considerable intellectual prowess with a highly creative and inventive mind and a real passion for research. She is going to be a star.”
Allen was recognized by the selection committee for her research on seasonal and pandemic influenza, which she conducted while interning over two summers at the National Institutes of Health. The research led to co-authorship of a paper on the effect of genetic mutations on the pandemic H1N1 virus (swine flu).
She was also recognized for her leadership work with the Dean’s Scholars Council and the Texas Public Health student organization.
In her junior year, Allen has continued to pursue her interest in public health and infectious diseases as an intern with the Texas Department of State Health Services. She’s helping to investigate the rise in rates of pertussis (whooping cough) infection that have led, for instance, to the 2009 outbreak in Texas.
“It’s a vaccine-preventable disease, but it’s increasing in incidence, and we don’t know why,” says Allen. “We thought we had a handle on it, and now it’s coming back.”
Allen plans to put the money from the Truman Scholarship toward a Master’s International Program, which combines a Master of Public Health degree with a 27-month commitment to the Peace Corps. Her long-term ambition is to earn a Ph.D. in epidemiology and go on to work for an international health organization, helping to battle the spread of infectious diseases in the developing world.
“I’ve always found it amazing that these microscopic organisms, these bacteria and viruses, can cause so much damage,” says Allen. “They can wreak havoc on entire populations. What appeals to me about approaching the problem from a public health perspective is that it requires you to understand not just the basic science, but the different cultures and policy options as well.”
The Truman Scholarship Foundation was established by Congress in 1975 as the federal memorial to the nation’s 33rd President. The Foundation awards scholarships for college students to attend graduate school in preparation for careers in government or elsewhere in public service. The activities of the Foundation are supported by a special trust fund in the U.S. Treasury. There have been 2,790 Truman Scholars elected since the first awards were made in 1977.
The 2011 Truman Scholars will assemble May 17 for a leadership development program at William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo., and receive their awards in a ceremony at the Truman Library in Independence, Mo., on May 22.