The Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department is proud to be called home to some of the most outstanding undergraduate students in higher education. These students display a high level of dedication, not only in furthering their education but in their desire to be on the frontlines of scientific discovery.
Meet one such student, Ananda Rankin. Ananda is a graduating senior at Penn State majoring in Microbiology as well as a Millennium Scholar. She was recently named a 2020 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellow.
Ananda, originally from Clinton Maryland, developed her interest in science at thirteen years old, from a forensic science course she took at a local community college. “After seeing all of the cool stuff that you could do with science and all of the questions that you could answer, I became very interested in the subject,” said Ananda.
Originally interested in forensic science, she was attracted to Penn State because to its excellent Forensic Science Program. “After visiting, I fell in love with the school's friendly atmosphere, the multitude of things to do, and the great support system that I found in the advisors in the Millennium Scholars Program,” stated Ananda.
Rankin conducts research in the laboratory of Squire Booker and is focused on the study of an enzyme called lipoyl synthase (LipA). LipA undergoes an important chemical reaction that results in the creation of a compound called lipoic acid, which is used in many essential biological processes. In this chemical reaction, LipA removes two hydrogen atoms from an inert carbon chain and replaces them with sulfur atoms from one of its own iron-sulfur clusters, rendering itself inactive and creating lipoic acid. Rankin is interested in uncovering and understanding the relationship between the different enzymes used in the creation of lipoic acid and the LipA iron-sulfur cluster.
In addition to her role as a Millennium Scholar, Ananda was named a 2019 Goldwater Scholar by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation and is minoring in French and Francophone Studies. She serves as the President of the Penn State Section of the National Council of Negro Women and is the Captain of the Caribbean Student Association dance team, Island Fever. When she’s not studying or in the laboratory, she loves spending her time doing things like dancing, drawing and reading.
After her graduation in May, Ananda plans to attend Washington University in St. Louis where she will continue her education in a Molecular, Microbiology, and Microbial Pathogenesis Ph.D. program.