As part of Penn State’s 2020 spring commencement activities, the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (BMB) has selected Rijul Bhimwal, Ananda Rankin, Kaitlin Cole, and Mengrui Cao to represent BMB as student marshals based on their outstanding academic achievement and their contributions to student life.
Due to the growing concern regarding the Covid-19 pandemic, the University will hold its spring 2020 commencement ceremony via livestream on May 9. As part of the virtual ceremony, all Penn State undergraduate and graduate students will be recognized. In addition, the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department is currently making plans to further recognize and honor its graduating seniors with an in-person reception to be held in the spring of 2021.
Continue reading to learn more about the student marshals selected to represent the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department.
Rijul Bhimwal is the son of Mohit and Kavita Bhimwal from Bangalore, India. A Schreyer Scholar, he is graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in biotechnology. Bhimwal is an undergraduate researcher, working under the guidance of professor of biochemistry and molecular biology Kathleen Postle, and investigates the mechanism of translocation of the bacteriocin Colicin B across the outer membrane embedded TonB-dependent transporter FepA. He has served as a Teaching and Learning Assistant for microbiology and organic chemistry courses, as well as a grader for an organic chemistry course. Bhimwal spent a summer as a research intern in Germany and currently works as a peer mentor within the Eberly College of Science by assisting students in finding research opportunities.
Bhimwal has been a Resident Assistant (RA) since the spring of 2018 and says, “It’s the proudest I’ve felt during my time on campus.” As an RA he has learned to handle many diverse situations such as roommate conflicts, issues involving mental health, and relationship violence. “I have had residents come to me after these situations and tell me that I was able to aid them by connecting them to helpful resources or just by being there to listen to them,” said Bhimwal. “Nothing has made me prouder than knowing I made a difference in the lives of those who have lived on my floor.”
Since fall 2019 Bhimwal has been enrolled in Penn State’s Master of Biotechnology program as an Integrated Undergraduate-Graduate student. Currently about halfway through his master’s curriculum, he will be coming back to University Park in the fall of 2020 to continue his degree. After completing his master’s degree, he hopes to work in industry conducting research in the broad field of drug development.
Ananda Rankin is the daughter of Tillanye and Anthony Rankin of Clinton, Maryland. A Millennium Scholar, she is graduating with a degree in microbiology. Rankin is an undergraduate researcher, under the mentorship of Penn State biochemist and Howard Hughes Medical Investigator Squire Booker, and investigates an enzyme called lipoyl synthase (LipA). She has studied abroad in Tanzania and tutored other students as part of the Millennium Scholar Peer Mentor Program. Rankin has been the President of the Penn State section of the National Council of Negro Women since 2019, is the current Captain of the Caribbean Student Association dance team, Island Fever, and served as Vice President of the National Association for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers in 2019.
Rankin is the creator of the Miss NCNW Scholarship Contest and considers the experience to be her proudest moment. The scholarship is awarded to a black woman who proposes an activism and advocacy project centered around the topic of social justice. Contest applicants present their projects at a symposium where the winner is chosen by a panel of judges. “I have always wanted to start a scholarship for black students, and this was the subject of one of my lifelong dreams,” said Rankin.
After graduation, Rankin will attend Washington University in St. Louis and continue her education in a Molecular Microbiology and Microbial Pathogenesis Ph.D. program. One day she hopes to operate a laboratory of her own where she will study infectious diseases.
Katilin Cole is the daughter of Kim and Brady Cole of Center Valley, Pennsylvania. She is graduating with a degree in biochemistry and molecular biology. Cole is an undergraduate researcher, under the leadership of assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology Timothy Meredith, and investigates the roles of several Staphylococcus aureus genes within the scope of antibiotic resistance. She has engaged in a five-week fieldwork experience in South Africa, as part of her global health minor, where she observed a diverse array of medical settings and clinics. Additionally, she is a volunteer at Mount Nittany Medical Center where she assists with discharging patients and the delivery of equipment, newspapers and flowers.
Cole is involved in the Penn State Alternative Breaks Program and says she has been honored to have been a part of organization, as a participant, a group leader and as a member of the board since 2019. The program provides a variety of opportunities for students to learn more about themselves, others, and the world around them, through service. Each program includes trips that are designed to encourage personal growth, promote civic engagement, and enrich the lives of participants by immersing them in a new community around issues of social justice.
Cole has been a participant on two different service-learning experiences and has served as a coordinator for three. “This organization was one where I felt I was able to have the most impact on my community in terms of facilitating opportunities for the growth and learning of others related to service and social justice,” said Cole.
After graduation Cole will be serving a one-year term as a “Volunteer In Service To America” in the AMERICORPS VISTA Program, a national service program that works within communities to help eradicate poverty. Her specific assignment will be working in Franklin County, Tennessee, to help reduce the impact of substance within communities. After her term with AMERICORPS Cole hopes to attend medical school.
Mergrui Cao is the daughter of Hui Meng and Tishan Cao of Harbin, China. She is graduating with a degrees in Forensic Science and Chemistry. Mergrui is an undergraduate researcher, under the guidance of J. Lloyd Huck Professor of Chemistry and of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Paul Cremer, and investigates the effect of salt solutions on the stability of protein mimics. Her research focuses on the nature of pairing between divalent cations and protein model systems as well as the trend in protein stabilizing effects of various iodide salts. Her project has the potential to help identify and understand the binding mechanism of cations to proteins in the future.
Mernrui is the recipient of the President Sparks Award, an award presented annually to undergraduate students who have earned a 4.00 cumulative grade-point average completing at least thirty-six graded Penn State credits by the end of the fall semester of the year the award is given. She has served in roles such as, chemistry grader, chemistry proctor and a course assistant for Forensic Science 415. Outside of the classroom Mengrui is a member of both the Penn State Archery Club, and Forensic Science Club.
After graduation Mengrui plans to attend the University of Chicago and earn a Ph.D is Chemistry. Beyond earning her Ph.D her career is wide-open as she explores interests in both research as well as a career working in a crime lab.