Ramiz Somjee, a junior majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology at Rhodes College, is among 396 college sophomores and juniors nationwide selected as a 2020 Goldwater Scholar.
Established in 1986 to honor Senator Barry M. Goldwater, the scholarship program was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences, and engineering. The Goldwater Scholarship is the preeminent undergraduate award of its type in these fields.
“I hope to pursue an MD/PhD degree after graduation and, ultimately, become a physician-scientist exploring the biological and chemical determinants of disease at the cellular level. I would love to end up working at a very mission-driven institution such as St. Jude,” says Somjee. “I am honored to be included amongst current and past Goldwater Scholars who have gone on to become leaders in their fields.”
Goldwater Scholars have impressive academic and research credentials, and Somjee has gained laboratory experience as a St. Jude Summer Plus Fellow at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. “I work under the guidance of Drs. Richard Kriwacki and Diana Mitrea to study how disordered proteins without definite 3D structure contribute to the formation of non-membrane-bounded structures within compartments within the cell. These compartments have liquid-like properties and contribute to diverse processes such as stress signaling and ribosome biogenesis; the malfunction of these condensates may lead to disease.”
With the St. Jude faculty, Somjee has published “Exploring Relationships Between the Density of Charged Tracts within Disordered Regions and Phase Separation.” He also has made presentations about this work at two conferences with international audiences—the Pacific Symposium on Biocomputing and the Keystone Symposium on Biomolecular Condensates.
In addition to receiving encouragement from his St. Jude mentors, Somjee says, “I’m very grateful to members of my lab, my professors at Rhodes College, and my family. They have all had a lasting impression on who I am as a scientist and person. I am especially thankful for how Profs. Terry Hill and Larryn Peterson have encouraged me to aim high and have always been there to support me.”
A graduate of Memphis University School, Somjee came to Rhodes as a participant of the Clarence Day Scholar program, in which students participate in campus and community events related to the Day Foundation and Memphis leadership initiatives. “I teach a religious education class and volunteer at my place of worship,” he says. On campus, Somjee is a supplemental instruction leader for organic chemistry, a calculus tutor, an executive on the Rhodes Activities Board, and the treasurer for Rhodes Radio.