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Michael Gormally '11 Awarded Coveted Cambridge Scholarship

Michael Gormally '11 atop Mt. Illimani in western Bolivia

Michael Gormally '11 atop Mt. Illimani in western Bolivia

Michael Gormally, a Pomona College senior from Mountain Lakes, NJ, has been awarded one of only 14 Churchill Scholarships, which provide exceptional American students with the resources to study at the University of Cambridge.

Churchill Scholars are selected based on extraordinary talent, outstanding academic achievement and exceptional personal qualities. The scholarship covers tuition and all fees (approximately $25,500-$28,000 a year), as well as a living and travel allowance. 

Gormally will pursuit a M. Phil. in chemistry at Cambridge and join the research group of Trinity College Prof. Shankar Balasubramanian to study the design of small molecules that target nucleic acids and modify biological function. He will focus his work on continued study of the G-quadruplex, a special conformation of DNA. “Methods of forming and stabilizing the G-quadruplex are emerging as promising targets that may hold the key to new therapeutic approaches in numerous areas of human disease, including cancer,” he explains. “My research experience with conformational behavior in situ would be useful in work at Cambridge, given the link between changes in structural stability caused by ligand binding and the resulting translational repression.”

During his time at Pomona, Gormally spent two summers conducting research with Prof. Malkiat Johal. In 2009, he researched the assembly and behavior of polymer multilayer systems using quartz crystal microbalance instruments and dual-beam polarization interferometry and completed his first lead-author publication. Last summer, as a Dale N. Robertson Fellow, he continued his earlier research projects, worked on a publication demonstrating the ability of a newly designed QCM module to monitor photodegradation (under review) and researched the assembly of enzymatic surfaces. That latter work resulted in three co-authored papers, which appeared in the journals Nanotech and Langmuir.

In addition to his studies and serving as a chemistry teaching assistant, Gormally has been a member of the Pomona-Pitzer varsity water polo team since 2007, participated in varsity swimming for two years, and served as a sponsor, mentoring first-year students and helping orient them to college life.

Off-campus, he spends much of his time mountaineering and has guided clients on climbs in the U.S., Europe and Bolivia. In spring 2010, he accomplished a personal goal in his third attempt to reach the summit of Illimani, a mountain in western Bolivia, whose highest peak is 21,201 feet. After months spent planning, including the logistics of getting supplies to the remote area, he achieved the summit in pre-dawn sub-zero darkness. The moment, he says, was “an indescribable mixture of accomplishment, joy and exhilaration.”

Following his year at Cambridge, Gormally plans to pursue an M.D./Ph.D. enter the field of medical research and contribute to a greater understanding of the disease process and potential effective treatments.

Gormally is the son of Charles Gormally and Sheila Gilligan. His sister, Brenna Gormally, will attend Pomona College starting in fall 2011.