05/30/13 10:11 am Age: 2 yrs

Walla Walla Native Receives Research Scholarship


By: Camlynne Waring

Chinonso Opara Gained Research Experience at WWU

Photo Source: University of Washington

University of Washington junior Chinonso Opara received the UNCF/Merck Undergraduate Science Research Scholarship Award, given annually to around 15 undergraduates from across the country.  Presented by the United Negro College Fund and the Merck Company Foundation, the award is meant “to help African American undergraduate students who are interested in science to further their science education and potentially pursue science and engineering careers.” The award provides up to a $25,000 scholarship for the 2013-2014 academic year and opportunities for research experience in a state-of-the-art research facility.

Opara, a biochemistry major, graduated from Walla Walla Valley Academy in 2010 and worked the following summer with David Lindsey in the Department of Biology at Walla Walla University in order to gain research experience before starting college.  In the lab, he assisted in research elucidating the pathway of the ubiquitin protease upbA.

“Chinonso is friendly, kind, unassuming, grateful, respectful, and highly motivated,” says Lindsey, who hears from Opara periodically. “He was perceptive enough to recognize the value of research experience early on.”

Opara has continued to be involved with research at the University of Washington.  An article in an UW campus newsletter highlights Opara’s work with Dr. Patrick Stayton on a project with the goal of enhancing anti-tumor immune response.  Last summer, he participated in the UW Amgen Scholars Program, where he worked in Dr. William Atkin’s medical chemistry lab to “create a new method for measuring the concentration of quantum dots in solution, which are currently being developed as biomedical devices, using surface plasmon resonance and analytical ultracentrifugation,” according to the article.

Currently, Opara is working with both Stayton and Atkins to develop polymer-nanodisc conjugates “to study how the pH-responsive polymers developed in the Stayton lab interact with lipid membranes.”

When he’s not in the lab, Opara volunteers for the Undergraduate Research Program as an undergraduate research leader, tutors chemistry for the UW Athletic Department, and is a volunteer pianist at a local nursing home.

Opara’s family moved to the United States from Nigeria for economic opportunity when he was six.  Opara credits his parents as his biggest role models.  His father, James, is a doctor, and his mother, Mercy, is a nurse.  Opara hopes to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a physician.


Published May 30, 2013

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