SOCORRO, N.M. May 10, 2011 -- A graduate of Gallup High School and the McKinley County Senior of the Year, Nikki Porch is a standout student and consummate community member in the Biology Department.
Macey Scholar 2011-2012
She has a 3.99 GPA and expects to graduate in four years with a biology major and two minors in psychology and chemistry. She’s also found time to take courses in art and photography. She credits much of her success to the fostering environment at New Mexico Tech.
“The fact that NMT provides a supportive and intellectually stimulating atmosphere has allowed me to flourish both inside and outside the lecture hall,” she wrote in her application. Tech “is such a remarkable university because it satisfies the natural inquisitiveness of its students by offering unparalleled academic and research opportunities.”
Porch won the 2010 Undergraduate Award in Analytical Chemistry and has landed a prestigious internship at the Center of Neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh in 2011. The program is part of the Research Experience for Undergraduates, which is a nation-wide program funded by the National Science Foundation. She’ll be working on a project that examines the susceptibility of adolescent rats to stress-induced depression, which serves as an analog for human disorders.
“I’m really excited,” she said. “I’m looking forward to delving into neuroscience research because so much of it is still a mystery. I don’t know exactly what type of neuroscience research I want to focus on for the long-term, but I know I like this field.”
For the past year, Porch has been working on an interdisciplinary research project with biology professor Dr. Snezna Rogelj. She has been screening and characterizing antifungal drug compounds, which were created by a team in the Chemistry Department.
In March 2011, Porch presented a research poster at the New Mexico-INBRE Conference in Santa Fe. She will also be a co-author of a publication related to that research.
Porch caught the eye of Dr. Rogelj when she earned a perfect score on a diagnostic exam in Cell Biology.
“Nikki was truly impressive academically – and also an absolute pleasure to have in class,” Rogelj wrote in her nomination letter. “She is responsible, organized and absolutely dedicated to her neuroscience-oriented professional goals, articulate and charmingly pleasant.”
Rogelj hired Porch in the fall of 2010 and “within a matter of weeks, was presenting absolutely outstanding data.”
Porch has participated in several service projects. She is an active member of Beta Beta Beta, the biology honor society. She has worked at a blood drive and helped design and proctor the Disease Detective event at the Science Olympiad in 2010. She also served as a judge at this year’s N.M. Science Fair.
“I like helping with Science Olympiad and Science Fair because it’s so wonderful to interact with younger students who are excited about science. It’s fun to encourage them … and be encouraged by them,” she said
She has been involved with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship since she came to Tech in 2008 and took on a leadership role in 2010. She is also a Residential Assistant in her dorm and has planned special events, both academic and social. For the past three summers, she has worked in a pharmacy, first as a cashier, then as a certified pharmacy technician.
“I’ve had to be very dedicated and goal-oriented to keep on top of things at Tech,” Porch said. “At times it can be somewhat tiring or strenuous, but I enjoy it and I’ve learned to value delayed gratification. I’ve also been blessed with an amazing support system.”
Porch aims to enter a doctoral program that combines her three academic interests – neuroscience.
Rogelj said, “Her academic and research-based brilliance will surely be rewarded by acceptance into a challenging doctoral program and she is certain to make major contributions in the world of neuroscience.”
– NMT –
By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech