WCU lands second consecutive Howard Hughes award winner

Matthew McDonough didn’t know much about the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Exceptional Research Opportunities Program until he learned that a couple of his Western Carolina University instructors nominated him to participate.

So the junior from Asheville applied and was surprised to be chosen to participate in the program that provides summer research experiences in HHMI scientists’ laboratories across the country to undergraduate students from disadvantaged backgrounds and groups underrepresented in the sciences.

“To be selected is quite an honor,” said McDonough, a biology major with concentration in molecular biology and a minor in chemistry.

According to biology instructor Maria Gainey, McDonough was an excellent student, but one of her quieter ones while taking the “Phage Hunters” class last year. But once the lessons shifted toward genomics last spring, Gainey noticed that McDonough really excelled. “He mastered (the tools we had) very quickly and kind of took off with the little bit of introduction of everything we gave him. I could tell he was enjoying that,” Gainey said.

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Originally written by Marlon Morgan. Published 

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