Focus on Research

USF junior Kenyaria Noble has received a prestigious scholarship to continue her research on aging.


By Abbey Hafer
Special to USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (March 15, 2013) — Kenyaria Noble is committed to medical research, and her hard work and dedication is being recognized in the form of a prestigious scholarship.


The University of South Florida College of Arts and Sciences junior is one of 15 students nationwide to receive a $30,000 United Negro College Fund (UNCF)/Merck Science Initiative Scholarship to support her research studying the basic mechanisms of aging and aging-related disorders, such as Alzheimer’s.  


Photo credits: Michele Dye

Noble, a student in the Honors College, endured the lengthy application process, completing revision after revision of her curriculum vitae and personal statement, never thinking she’d be picked out of thousands applying across the country.


“Everyone’s telling me this scholarship is the key to any medical school I want to go to,” Noble said. “I just can’t believe I won!”


A native of Fort Pierce, Fla., Noble’s mother, Latoya Gordon, raised her and her siblings to think for themselves and make their own decisions. Noble said she chose USF because of its reputation as a leading research university, although her passion for research didn’t come to fruition until the summer after her freshman year, when she took Patrick Bradshaw’s genetics class.


She said her journey started with the question, “What is research?” and from there blossomed into the study of aging and the aging process. Her interests have extended beyond that.


Her initial experiments began with melatonin and caffeine and the effects they have on the health of mitochondria, the “powerhouse” of the cell. From there, her studies expanded to several projects involving the study of mitochondria and how its dysfunctions contribute to a myriad of diseases including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, as well as aging. Now, she spends her day-to-day life growing and experimenting on brain cells in the lab to aid in her research.


In addition, Noble has given many poster presentations on her research, both on campus and around the country, including a convention in San Jose, Calif., and another in Washington, D.C. She is currently working on a publication involving her research, with the help of Vedad Delic, a graduate student in Bradshaw’s research lab.  


Noble said none of this would have been possible without Bradshaw, whom she calls, “my source of information and key to my success.” Bradshaw, an assistant professor in the Department of Cell Biology, Microbiology and Molecular Biology, and Noble have been working in the lab together for a year and a half. She also served as a teaching assistant for one of his genetics classes last semester.


“He gave me the opportunity to discover my love for science,” Noble said. “Dr. Bradshaw has given me insight into what the career of a researcher would be like, both academically and industrially, and has shown me the type of qualities I would want in myself when I become a professional.”


Noble also is grateful to two faculty members who have played a role in her success: Richard Pollenz, the dean of the Office of Undergraduate Research, and Bernard Batson, the director of Florida Georgia Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation.

“Dr. Bradshaw originally sparked my interest in research, but Dr. Pollenz and Mr. Batson have encouraged my participation in various aspects of research, such as attending conferences, making presentations, applying for scholarships, and taking advantage of internship opportunities,” Noble said.


She plans to pursue a Doctor of Medicine and a Doctor of Philosophy, allowing her to combine the research and medical doctor roles. The few colleges that offer that program are competitive, accepting only 15 students each year.


Bradshaw said he has no doubt Noble will be able to go wherever she wants because “she’s one of the few students who deeply understands every step of what she’s doing in the lab, and uses this knowledge to plan her own experiments.”


Research is Noble’s passion.


“You can never make too much of an impact,” Noble said. “It’s constant problem-solving. I want to change the world one cure at a time.”


Noble has successfully balanced her research and still managed an impressive 3.93 GPA. This summer she has the choice to intern at either Merck or the National Institutes of Health, where she will have the opportunity to continue her current research on aging and aging-related diseases or explore other areas, such as diabetes or cancer. This internship opportunity is part of her scholarship.


“The most exciting thing about this scholarship is after the scholarship pays for her housing, tuition, food and books, what’s left of it [up to $5,000] comes back to the university and will help Kenyaria pay for supplies and resources to further her research,” Bradshaw said.


Bradshaw said he hopes more students will follow Noble’s example and apply for any and all scholarships available to them.


Noble said her advice to fellow students is to learn from others.


“You can master life if you take from other people. I always look at people and see what’s working for them, then I try and figure out how to get that,” Noble said.