Joshua Niska, an intern at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), has won a $7,500 national Goldwater Scholarship from the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence In Education Foundation.

Niska is among five TGen interns who have won this prestigious national award including his brother, Jared Niska. Goldwater Scholarships are considered the nation's highest undergraduate award in science, math and engineering.

Josh Niska, TGen Intern

Josh Niska, who plans to attend medical school, teach and pursue a career in medicine and cancer research, is majoring in Biochemistry with an emphasis on Medicinal Chemistry at Arizona State University.

"As a cancer researcher and oncologist, I hope to benefit cancer patients in three ways," Niska said. "By conducting research in the laboratory, I will have the opportunity to discover new treatments and improve the standards of care. In the clinic, I will be able to provide novel treatments as part of clinical trials. Through teaching at the university/medical school level, I will be able to train the next generation of researchers who will make further advances."

Niska, who has interned at TGen since 2005, most recently worked in the lab of Dr. Heather Cunliffe, Head of TGen's Breast & Ovarian Cancer Research Unit. He has focused on development of a new diagnostic and prognostic biomarker for invasive breast cancer.

"This is fabulous news for Josh," Dr. Cunliffe said. "He has won several prestigious national awards while at TGen that will weigh heavily in his acceptance into a leading medical school. It has been my privilege to train some of the bright young minds of tomorrow. There is a tremendous need for additional biomedical research emphasis in clinical training to impact a revolution in health care."

Niska also has won the American Association for Cancer Research Thomas J. Bardos Science Education Award for Undergraduate Students (2008 and 2009), American Association for the Advancement of Science Travel Grant, and the Chemistry/Biochemistry Department Alpha Chi Sigma Merit Award.

Niska started at TGen with a voluntary summer internship in 2005, continued his project during his senior year of high school, and was again a summer intern in 2006. In 2007 he was a summer intern under the Helios Scholars Program at TGen, and in 2008 was a summer intern as a TGen Undergraduate Research Fellow (TURF). He was awarded research fellowships in 2007, 2008 and 2009 by the ASU School of Life Sciences Undergraduate Research (SOLUR) program to continue his research training throughout the academic year.

"Josh's achievements are proof positive that internships are a vital component in fostering the next generation of scientists," said Dr. Jeffrey Trent, TGen's President and Research Director. "Appropriate mentorship, coupled with a great community partner such as the Helios Education Foundation, can produce a winning environment that allows students to gain valuable hands-on experience in the biomedical sciences."

In TGen's Breast & Ovarian Cancer Research Unit, Niska has gained experience in cell-based mechanistic perturbation technologies, molecular pathology and array-based gene expression profiling. His lab mentor has been Research Associate Amanda Willis. He also worked in a TGen lab where he received basic laboratory training and participated in a research project investigating mechanisms impacting brain tumor cell invasion.

Niska is one of 278 students nationwide awarded the Goldwater Scholarship for the 2009-10 academic year; one of six from Arizona, and one of three from Arizona State University.

Other recipients of Goldwater Scholarship who interned at TGen include:

-- Lara Cardy (2007-08) who worked in the Neurogenomics Division.

-- Eric Anderson (2006-07) who also works with Dr. Cunliffe.

-- Shannon Fortin (2005-06) who worked with Dr. Nhan Tran, Head of TGen's Central Nervous System Tumor Research Lab. Fortin went on to win a Fulbright Scholarship.

-- Jared Niska (2003-04) who worked with Dr. Michael Berens, Director of TGen's Cancer and Cell Biology Division.

All attended ASU.

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About the Goldwater Foundation
The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence In Education Foundation is a federally endowed agency based in Springfield, Virginia, honoring the late Arizona Sen. Barry M. Goldwater. It is designed to encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering, and it is considered the premier undergraduate award of its type in these fields. Since Congress established the program in 1986, the foundation has awarded 5,801 scholarships worth nearly $56 million. Trustees plan to award about 300 scholarships for the 2010-11 academic year.

About TGen
The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) is a non-profit organization based in Phoenix, Ariz., dedicated to conducting groundbreaking research with life changing results. Research at TGen is focused on helping patients with diseases such as cancer, neurological disorders and diabetes. TGen is on the cutting edge of translational research where investigators are able to unravel the genetic components of common and complex diseases. Working with collaborators in the scientific and medical communities, TGen believes it can make a substantial contribution to the efficiency and effectiveness of the translational process. For more information, visit:

Press Contact:
Steve Yozwiak
TGen Senior Science Writer
[email protected]

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