SLAC Today logo

Peace Esonwune Receives Ashley Fellowship

(Photo - Peace Esonwune and her children)
Peace Esonwune is a mother of two and mentor of many. (Photo courtesy of Peace Esonwune.)

Peace Esonwune has been awarded the 2009-10 Alonzo W. Ashley Fellowship. The fellowship gives Esonwune a year of support to perform research in the Structural Molecular Biology division of the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource in collaboration with the Joint Center for Structural Genomics, under the direction of JCSG's Herbert Axelrod. This is the first time that the Ashley award has been given to a student and not an in-house SLAC researcher.

"I'm proud to be working with Peace," Axelrod said. "She is hardworking, conscientious, and intelligent. Her research will be one of the first thesis projects from San Francisco State University that will involve X-ray crystallography."

Esonwune's projects will allow her to analyze data at SSRL to perform molecular modeling of proteins involved in biological energy cycles. The project will shed light on a process in starch production in plants that could have future implications in bio-energy production.

Esonwune said she hopes that this research will be part of her master's thesis for the Cell and Molecular Biology program at San Francisco State, where she is also working toward a minor in biotechnology. Esonwune has already finished the first step in her project by obtaining promising preliminary results from crystallizing the protein complex. In addition to a year's stipend, the fellowship provides a travel grant so she can attend a conference and present her project. The Ashley fellowship will allow Esonwune to learn and use vital structural biology imaging tools available at SSRL as well as talk with scientists from around the world.

"I already have the preliminary data, the conference will get the message out to fellow scientists," she said. "In the future, I want to advance my academic pursuit and get my PhD in a science or engineering field to help me become a better scientist and engineer as I take on more responsibilities," Esonwune said.

TThe Alonzo Ashley Fellowship honors Al Ashley, a physicist who spent 30 years at SLAC working to improve diversity in science and engineering. He supported aspiring researchers who wished to contribute to the scientific mission at SLAC but may not have had an avenue to do so. The recipient of the award must demonstrate devotion to the scientific mission at SLAC and a commitment to mentoring minorities and women in science or engineering.

Esonwune expressed her commitment to continue mentoring middle school students at an underperforming middle school in San Francisco.

"I want to encourage more girls, especially those who are under-represented, to pursue science," she said. "One of the advantages of the fellowship was that it recognizes the work I have done in this area."

""I want to express my gratitude to SLAC for giving me this opportunity to contribute in my little way to its vision of exploring frontier questions in science," Esonwune said. "And also, I want to say thank you to my supervisor and mentor, Herb Axelrod, and other individuals at SMB, JCSG, and other departments in SLAC who have been very supportive of me here."

—Lauren Knoche and Carmella Huser
SLAC Today, September 30, 2009