Rachel Moyofoluwa Aguda and Sharaf F. Maisha.

Biochemistry undergraduate students Rachel Moyofoluwa Aguda, left, and Sharaf F. Maisha have earned highly competitive scholarships from the NIH.

Biochemistry Undergraduate Students Earn Scholarships

Published August 10, 2022

story by dirk hoffman

Two undergraduate students in the Department of Biochemistry have been selected as recipients of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Undergraduate Scholarship Program (UGSP).


The UGSP scholarship is a highly competitive national program that was started in 1994 and seeks to provide research opportunities and financial support to undergraduate students interested in biomedical research who have demonstrated strong academic performance and have an unmet financial need.

According to the Office of Intramural Training and Education at the NIH, only 15 students were selected as UGSP scholars during the 2022-2023 academic year, so the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences is well represented with the selection of Rachel Moyofoluwa Aguda and Sharaf F. Maisha.

“It is a testament to the quality of our students and their mentors that the NIH has selected two of our biochemistry undergraduate students to receive this highly competitive scholarship,” says Allison Brashear, MD, MBA, UB’s vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School.

In addition to financial support, UGSP scholars participate in a 10-week paid summer research internship at the NIH, and following completion of their undergraduate degree participate in one year of employment and training at the NIH. 

These research opportunities at the premier federal medical research agency will involve awardees working directly with an NIH principal investigator or an NIH postdoctoral fellow, who will serve as mentors to assist them in learning modern techniques and approaches to research.

Studying Enzyme That Inactivates Vitamin D

Aguda is entering her senior year as a biochemistry major. She trains in the lab of D. Fernando Estrada, PhD, assistant professor of biochemistry.

Her research is focused on the study of mutations to the cytochrome P450 enzyme CYP24A1, which is the enzyme responsible for inactivation of vitamin-D.

In addition to the UGSP scholarship, Aguda is also a 2022 recipient of a Marion B. Sewer Distinguished Scholarship for Undergraduates from the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Following her undergraduate and NIH training, Aguda is planning a career in medicine.

Eyeing Biomedical Doctoral Program

Maisha is also entering her senior year as a biochemistry major and is currently training in the lab of Lee Ann Garrett-Sinha, PhD, professor of biochemistry. She formerly also worked with Mary L. Taub, PhD, professor of biochemistry.

Maisha’s research is focused on determining whether particular cytokines can cooperate with signals via the B cell receptor to affect expression of transcription factors.

She has also received the Mary Rosenblum Somit Scholarship and the South Asian Youth Action Scholarship.

Maisha is planning to enroll in a biomedical doctoral program after her NIH training and has an interest in studying epigenetics and chromatin structure.