Taralyn Tan landed at Oregon State University almost by happy accident. Having already applied at other colleges during her senior year in high school, she happened upon a brochure for Oregon State while cleaning her room, and started reading about the school’s medical preceptorship program. Intrigued, Tan applied just two weeks short of the deadline, and was accepted.
“Thank goodness I cleaned my room when I did!” she said.
Tan, a 2008 graduate of Oregon State in biochemistry and biophysics and an honors college student, has just been awarded a Phi Kappa Phi Marcus L. Urann Fellowship, which provides $15,000 toward her graduate study in neuroscience at Harvard University.
Tan was the recipient of the 2010 OSU Chapter of Phi Kappa Phi award, which put her in the running for the national fellowship. She was the top-ranked applicant for the national fellowship, receiving a perfect score for her application.
“I am excited to be able to represent OSU, and I am so happy that OSU is getting national recognition in the form of this award,” Tan said. “I received a magnificent undergraduate education at Oregon State, and so I really view this fellowship as a credit to my wonderful mentors and teachers.”
John Sessions, distinguished professor in forest engineering, resources and management, also of the OSU Chapter of Phi Kappa Phi, helped Tan prepare her application for the national competition.
Tan, a native of Salem, Ore., originally chose OSU because of the medical preceptorship program, which fit with her plans to enroll as a pre-med student. But while working with Fred Stormshak, a professor in the animal sciences department, she realized she had a passion for research. Stormshak continues to be a mentor and friend to Tan, who is now doing research at Harvard.
“The rigorous coursework of the Biochemistry/Biophysics major certainly provided me with a strong scientific foundation, although I really have to credit my incredible professors and research mentors for their support in the laboratory,” she said. “They inspired me to pursue a Ph.D., and they challenged me to think and work as an independent scientist.”
While at OSU, Tan was named a second-team All-American Scholar by USA Today. She also founded Sigma Delta Omega, a sorority for women in science.
“I gained leadership experience and acquired a strong passion for the advancement of women in science, both of which will certainly serve me well in my graduate studies and career,” she said. Tan continues to focus on issues facing women and science and has written for science blogs on the topic.
While Tan has been working in a research lab at Harvard since graduation, her graduate program will officially start this fall.
“The fellowship takes some of the financial burden away from the program in neuroscience at Harvard, freeing resources for other aspects of the program,” she said. “It also defrays the cost of the early rotation that I am planning for this summer, allowing me to get a head start before the program officially starts in September.”
Tan hopes to one day become a professor herself, and said she dreams of returning to OSU one day in that capacity. “I would love to eventually return to teach at my alma mater.”
For more information on Phi Kappa Phi see http://www.phikappaphi.org/Web/Awards/Fellowship.html