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UC Grad Awarded Homeland Security Fellowship

The U.S. Government makes an investment in Mike Brothers’ future graduate research, which is aimed at keeping us safe on the home front.

Date: 6/9/2008
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Dottie Stover
University Honors student Mike Brothers was one of only 12 students to enter UC in 2004 with a full Cincinnatus Scholarship to pay for his tuition, books, room and board. As he achieves his bachelor’s degrees from the McMicken College of Arts & Sciences in chemistry and biology, the academically talented 22-year-old plans to continue pursuing his PhD in chemical biology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on a fellowship awarded from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Mike Brothers
Mike Brothers

For up to three years, the fellowship, which is renewable, provides Brothers’ tuition and fees, a $2,300 monthly stipend and a 10-week internship in his field of study at a DHS facility. The fellowships are awarded to students who are talented in the technology and science fields and who are interested in pursuing graduate degrees related to homeland security research areas including engineering, the physical sciences and social sciences. One of the projects that Brothers is interested in pursuing at Illinois is using the properties of nanoparticles to aid in the detection of biological agents. This would benefit homeland security-related research efforts for detection of chemical and biological threats.

Brothers credits his two years of undergraduate research at UC for both his admission into his future research program as well as his fellowship. “The fact is, top graduate schools only accept people who have done extensive undergraduate research,” says Brothers, who has worked under the guidance of Assistant Chemistry Professor Suri Iyer. Specifically, Brothers has worked with Shalyajit Jadhav, a third-year graduate student, on the development of novel glyconanomaterials for the strain specific capture of harmful pathogens such as the influenza virus.

Mike Brothers

“Mike is an incredibly talented individual,” Iyer says. “He is adept in picking up complex concepts fast and can multitask with apparent ease. We have been very fortunate to have two exceptional undergraduate students, Mike Brothers and David Siler (Brothers’ classmate, who will be attending Princeton University in the fall) in my group. My graduate students and I will certainly miss them. Mike’s success exemplifies all that the Department of Chemistry and the McMicken College of Arts & Sciences stands for – top-notch educational experiences for undergraduates and graduate students, excellence in research, students at the center, and low student-faculty ratios,” Iyer says.

Brothers also took advantage of research opportunities during his two summer co-ops at Pittsburgh Plate Glass in Milford, Ohio. In 2006, his presentation at the Kentucky-Indiana-Ohio Regional Undergraduate Research Symposium was awarded first prize. He is the 2008 recipient of the McMicken College of Arts & Sciences Robert Patterson McKibbin Medal for outstanding male senior.

“Michael is that caliber of student that comes along infrequently at best. I’ve probably come across four or five such students in the same ballpark as Mike in my 32 years of teaching,” says Bruce Ault, professor and director of chemistry undergraduate studies. “He has been doing some of his research just for enjoyment and scientific progress, without applying for college credit. Plus, he continued his high achievements in academics, even after picking up a second major. This is a student who had his choice of any of the top graduate schools in the country.”

When Brothers first entered UC as a freshman, he had traveled here from King Of Prussia, Pa., but since his family was originally from the Cincinnati USA region and his father, Lou, graduated from UC after majoring in multidisciplinary sciences, Mike had grown up a Bearcat fan. But when he first came to campus during the winter of 2004 for the Cincinnatus Scholarship competition, he recalls a winter-dreary day and a tour of a campus under construction. “When I came back to interview (for the full scholarship award), it was a sunny day and I began to see UC’s vision and all the work that was going into making that vision a reality. Obviously, now with our increasing enrollment, that vision is paying off.”

legacy luncheon
Mike Brothers and UC alum and benefactor A.J.

Brothers not only earns high praise for his academic talents, but also for his enthusiasm as serving as an outstanding student ambassador. As part of his Cincinnatus Scholarship commitment, he was dedicated to performing 30 hours of community service per academic year. His contribution included assistance in organizing the University Honors Program freshman retreat and serving as a retreat coordinator his senior year. He also helped organize fellow Cincinnatus Scholars to visit with children staying at the Cincinnati Ronald McDonald House. “Mike is always willing to help,” says Debbie Brawn, director of academic programs for the University Honors Program. “He has so many ideas and makes so many connections – he’s so inquisitive that he just blows you away,” says Brawn.

Brothers says his life-changing moment at UC occurred as he returned to campus the fall of his sophomore year. Starting out as a freshman and so far away from his hometown friends in Pennsylvania, he remembers his worries as a freshman about finding his way around campus and feeling a little homesick. “It was funny, because when I came back to campus the following fall, I remember that when I first got to campus, my first thought was, ‘It’s good to be home.’ You just get a sense that it feels like home here.

“UC is a big university, but it never felt that big to me. I attribute that to the professors and the staff and faculty who had a life-altering impact on me, not only in terms of my education, but also in terms of my personal being.”

Ironically, Brothers’ family soon followed him back to the area. His family now lives in Union, Ky., and his father owns his own aerospace and defense technologies company. Mike’s even thinking of possibly working with his father one day. But for now, his opportunities at UC are paving the pathway for great research opportunities that lie ahead – opportunities meant to serve and protect the nation.

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