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News Release

Office of News and Information
Johns Hopkins University
3003 N. Charles Street, Suite 100
Baltimore, Maryland 21218-3843
Phone: (410) 516-7160 | Fax (410) 516-5251

April 10, 2001
CONTACT: Michael Purdy

Local Student Presents Research at
Undergraduate Award Ceremony

Nicole Sherman, from Valparaiso, Neb., was among 43 Johns Hopkins University students to receive a Provost's Undergraduate Research Award for the 2000-2001 academic year. Results of Sherman's research, titled "Molecular Regulation of the Development of 'Fertilization Competence' of Sperm," were presented at an awards ceremony at Hopkins on April 5. Sherman graduated from Vilseck High School in Vilseck, Germany

Sherman's research results could feed into a patent application and the potential development of new fertility therapies.

"Nikki's looking for things that interact with mammalian sperm that might modulate their activity during fertilization," said mentor Janice Evans, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

Evans praised Sherman's enthusiasm and work ethic, particularly in the face of a sudden and unexpected need to revise her research plan.

"I made my proposal to the Provost Awards committee, and the day after that someone came out and published my experiment," remembered Sherman, a senior majoring in public health. "I had made the proteins, I was ready to go ahead with the assay, and then someone published it."

With a little help from Evans, though, Sherman soon had a "plan B" underway.

"Both of the candidate molecules (the one in the original application and the one she's been working with more recently) have been hypothesized to be involved in sperm-egg binding," explained Evans.

Sherman, who joked that she was "one of those people T.A.s get warned about," said she plans to go into clinical medicine, but has always been "curious about the other side of the house."

"When you think about it, it's a really amazing program that people like me can kind of play around in the lab and try to figure things out the experimental way," said Sherman. "It's cool being on the cutting edge of a field. This isn't in books anywhere."

The Johns Hopkins University is recognized as the country's first graduate research university, and has been in recent years the leader among the nation's research universities in winning federal research and development grants.

The opportunity to be involved in important research is one of the distinguishing characteristics of an undergraduate education at Johns Hopkins. About 80 percent of the university's undergraduates engage in some form of independent research during their four years, most often alongside top researchers in their fields.

The Provost's Undergraduate Research Awards is one of these research opportunities, open to students in each of the university's four schools with full- time undergraduates: the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, the G.W.C. Whiting School of Engineering, the Peabody Conservatory and the School of Nursing. Since 1993, about 40 students each year have been awarded up to $2,500 to propose and conduct original research, some results of which have been published in professional journals. The awards, begun by then provost Joseph Cooper and funded through a donation from the Hodson Trust, are an important part of the university's commitment to research.

Return to Provost's Undergraduate Research Awards news release.

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