Jason Willils Wins Norris Fellowship
Occidental College junior biochemistry major Jason Willis of Albuquerque, N.M., has been awarded a prestigious Norris Scholars Fellowship to continue his research into the effect of RNA catalysts on essential life processes such as metabolism and reproduction.
RNA is found in many organisms and is responsible for directing the synthesis of proteins, which carry out basic life functions. Willis’ research could lead to the development of custom-made RNA aimed at helping doctors combat viruses and cancer.
The Norris Fellowship will allot Willis $7,000 to conduct his research over the next 18 months. Additionally, he will receive a $3,000 budget for research expenses and professional travel.
“It’s a great honor to receive the Norris scholar award,” Willis said. “It is a fantastic opportunity to expand my skills and understanding as a researcher. Without a doubt, I owe many thanks to the countless peers and faculty whom I have had the pleasure to meet. They are friends who have encouraged and supported my development as a student.”
“Jason is a gifted student with a unique combination of talents,” said Reef Hardy, adjunct research professor of chemistry. “His curiosity, creativity and keen analytical mind are well-matched with his humble and soft-spoken demeanor. I have every confidence that he will become a great scientist as well as an excellent mentor.”
After graduation, Willis plans to enroll in a combined medical and doctoral program to further develop his research skills. He ultimately hopes to study cancer biology and the new treatments that are being developed.
The Long Beach, Calif.-based Kenneth T. and Eileen L. Norris Foundation funds grants in the areas of medicine, education, community and youth programs, science, and the arts. Kenneth Norris, a metallurgist who discovered a way to make steel casings for bullets during World War II, created the foundation with his wife in 1963.