Mathews student wins Fulbright Scholarship, NSF Fellowship

by Sherry Hamilton - Posted on May 09, 2018 - 02:03 PM

Photo: 2014 Mathews High School graduate and co-valedictorian Elizabeth Ransone has continued her academic accolades in college. She was recently awared a Fulbright Scholarship and is the recipient of a Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation. Photo by Sherry Hamilton

2014 Mathews High School graduate and co-valedictorian Elizabeth Ransone has continued her academic accolades in college. She was recently awared a Fulbright Scholarship and is the recipient of a Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation. Photo by Sherry Hamilton

Elizabeth Ransone of Mathews studied hard as a biology major at the College of William and Mary, and her hard work paid off when she was recently awarded a Fulbright Scholarship.

Then she went into a panic when she found out she was also the recipient of a Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation. 

Because she was going to spend 10 months abroad doing host-microbe symbiosis research on the Fulbright, Ransone hadn’t even bothered to apply to graduate school, and the deadlines had all passed. After all, she only applied for the research fellowship as practice.

“I knew the GRF was a long shot,” she said. “I just figured I’d try it to see what my scores were. I figured it would help in the future because they tell you your strengths and weaknesses.”

Suddenly, Ransone had to try to get into a graduate school. Not only that, but she had to tell them she wouldn’t actually be attending for another year. She said she yelled at her computer, called her mom, and then e-mailed Heidi Goodrich-Blair, a professor at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.

Goodrich-Blair is the reason Ransone chose Germany for the Fulbright. She had participated in a microbiology research experience for undergraduates in Tennessee under the professor, and found her to be “a really great advisor.” The two stayed in touch “to try to make something out of my research,” said Ransone. When Ransone called for advice on the Fulbright, Goodrich-Blair suggested she study under Helge Bode, a professor of biochemistry at Goethe-Universität in Frankfurt who does metabolite chemistry and analytical chemistry, areas of study Ransone has never undertaken before. The two professors wrote letters of recommendation for Ransone for the Fulbright.

Ransone was relieved when she heard back from Goodrich-Blair. The professor assured her protégé that she would be welcome in the graduate program at the University of Tennessee, where the GRF will assure that she will have three years of her study fully funded. Her master’s program will begin in August 2019, shortly after she returns from Germany.

Ransone will use the Fulbright Scholarship to continue work she has already begun on a project involving host-microbe symbiosis, or studying bacterial microbes and how they interact with their animal hosts. She plans to use one year of her GRF to fund the first year of her master’s degree program and two years of her PhD program. She said her end goal is to be a researcher doing host-microbe work with infectious diseases, likely arboviruses such as encephalitis, dengue and yellow fevers.

Ransone said she’s considering earning a combination PhD/MD, since that “makes it more likely people will hire you” at institutions such as the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control.

“But that’s several years down the road,” she said with a grin. “Who knows what will change.”