It’s not many college seniors that already have a job lined up seven months before they graduate. But senior Kelechi Ndukwe, a Lehman Scholar and Biological Sciences major, does. He has won a year-long fellowship with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Undergraduate Scholarship Program.
After his planned graduation next spring, the Nigerian native, who is studying neurobiology, will move to Maryland, where he will work as a full-time researcher at the NIH, a branch of the Federal government.
“It was unbelievable,” says Ndukwe. “It’s a dream come true. I was exposed to biology early on in secondary school. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do when I arrived here, but I knew it had something to do with biology.”
While the soft-spoken senior might not believe his good fortune, his professors do. “Kelechi has a strong mind with great aptitude as a young scientist,” says Professor Stephen Redenti (Biological Sciences). “He made many contributions to our research in stem cell biology by developing molecular techniques and by helping other researchers in the lab. He certainly has a bright future.”
Ndukwe has struggled to get to where he is. He immigrated to the Bronx in 2007. His mother, who won an American visa in a lottery, had moved here seven years earlier, while Ndukwe and his brother and sister lived with family in Nigeria.
When his NIH fellowship is finished, Ndukwe, a member of the Sigma Xi Honor Society, wants to attend an M.D./Ph.D. program—one of the most competitive graduate programs in the nation. “I want to be both a medical doctor and a researcher,” he says. “I want to work with patients and in a laboratory.”