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Aiko Turmo: Working hard to achieve my aspirations

Aiko Turmo is a graduate student in the lab of MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory scientist Cheryl Kerfeld and is a recipient of the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

She is one of eight students in the College of Natural Science to be awarded this fellowship. The program, one of the country's most prestigious and competitive awards for graduate students, directly supports graduate students in various science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

Aiko Turmo checked her email one morning and received news that would change the trajectory of her graduate studies at MSU.

"I think it was 6 a.m., I woke up and read the email I got the award," said Turmo, who is in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. "I was so excited, I couldn't believe it! I had to read the email a couple of times. I hit 'Accept,' immediately."

Turmo will use the fellowship to study the relationship between carboxysome shell permeability in cyanobacteria and how microcystins, a cyanobacterial toxin, binds to RuBisCO to enhance carbon fixation and the growth of the cyanobacterium.

"I am lucky to have very caring and supportive mentors in the Kerfeld lab and at the MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory. Cheryl [Kerfeld] is always motivating me to do my best and provides me with feedback to improve myself," she said. "The post-docs have also sacrificed a lot of their time to teach me for which I am incredibly grateful.

"The mentorship provided to me continues to inspire me to work hard to achieve my aspirations."

Kerfeld, Turmo's mentor, says Turmo has the skills, knowledge and work ethic to succeed in her endeavors.

"She's a pleasure to coach, she really wants to learn and works hard to improve herself," Kerfeld said. "I really don't think I have ever had a student so simply willing to work hard and learn in order to achieve her goals.

"She is always looking for opportunities to grow, to learn more, do more - and to do something with impact. She has the potential to become a leading female scientist."

Christoph Benning, director of the MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory, has a similar sentiment regarding Turmo - and the award.

"I am very happy that Aiko received this NSF graduate fellowship and I congratulate her on behalf of everyone in the PRL," he said. "This award is a great honor and speaks for Aiko's ability to present a great project. It is also the result of excellent mentoring by Cheryl Kerfeld."

Read more about Turmo here.