MLHS grad wins nationally known Fulbright award

By Brenda Erdahl

Blair Stewig, a 2014 Maple Lake High School graduate, was recently awarded what is considered one of the most widely recognized and prestigious scholarships in the world, the J. William Fulbright Award.

With it, she will travel to Poland to the International Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology in Warsaw this fall where she will conduct research on the importance of the inflammatory processes and colorectal cancer.

The Fulbright program offers funding to teachers, students, professionals, and artists to conduct research or exercise talents abroad, and as a recipient, Stewig is among an elite sect of people, 59 of whom have won Nobel Prizes and 82 who have won Pulitzer Prizes.

“It feels like a dream. It feels unreal. It feels like a huge bow/cherry on top of my college career. I have had a busy four years at Augsburg and to get a research grant at the end of it all makes it all come together,” said Stewig who has plans to pursue a PhD in genetics.

The application and grant writing process began for Stewig last July when she cold-called numerous labs in Poland looking for one that would take on a student. She eventually found what she was looking for at the Miączyńska Laboratory at the International Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology.

“I am already very impressed by Blair’s personality, abilities and her working style,” wrote Professor Marta Miączyńska, PhD and head of the Warsaw based laboratory in a letter to the Fulbright committee. “She is very knowledgeable and follows scientific literature in the fields that interest her. She has read our publications, and on this basis, she contacted me – something uncommon at her education stage and demonstrating her maturity. Blair is very motivated, enthusiastic, and committed to broadening her knowledge and skills.”

Stewig will graduate from Augsburg University in Minneapolis on Saturday, April 28 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and minors in Chemistry, Religion, and Environmental Studies. She hopes to pursue a MD/PhD dual degree and feels the opportunity to conduct research in Poland offers a “unique opportunity to build bridges between the scientific communities of Poland and the United States,” she said.

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