Graduate Student Wins Award in Cystic Fibrosis Scholarship Competition

Montclair State University graduate student Scott Buchanan has been awarded $2,500 in the national CFCareForward Scholarship competition. Sponsored by Abbott Laboratories, the scholarship program was established to honor young adults with cystic fibrosis and to help them achieve their goals in post-high school education.

Buchanan, who is pursuing a Master’s degree in biology and expects to graduate in May, 2011, was one of 40 finalists to receive the award out of more than 200 applicants. This is the second year in a row he has been awarded a $2,500 scholarship.

As part of the application process, he was required to submit a creative presentation. Buchanan compiled a video collage showing highlights of his life, which can be viewed at www.cfcareforwardscholarship.com/winners-profiles/scott-b.php.

The scholarships were awarded based on applicants’ creativity, academic excellence, community involvement and ability to serve as a positive role model for the CF community. National online voting determined the recipient of the $18,000 Thriving Student Achiever grand prize, which was won by a student at Southern California College of Optometry. A total of nearly 34,000 votes were cast.

“I got a ton of positive feedback and I know a lot of people at Montclair State voted for me. It’s been very rewarding,” said Buchanan, who graduated from Rutgers University in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in science (ecology) and from Glen Ridge High School in 2001.

Diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when he was two-years-old, the 27-year-old has led an active life, playing on school football and baseball teams in high school, and jogging regularly. In addition to taking medication, he said he leads a healthy lifestyle and exercises as much as possible.

As a graduate assistant in the Department of Biology at Montclair State, he teaches laboratory classes to undergraduates and tries to inspire in his students the same passion for science that he has.

For the past four years, Buchanan has worked seasonally for the National Park Service at Cape Cod, conducting radio telemetry research about the habitat preferences of hognose snakes, which is also his thesis topic. “Not much is known about them and that makes them appealing,” he said.

The non-poisonous snake is found in sandy soil habitats as far south as Florida and as far west as Kansas. In the Northeast, their numbers are dwindling, making them “a species of conservation concern,” he adds.

After graduating, Buchanan hopes to work full-time as a biologist with the National Park Service or may pursue a PhD for an eventual teaching career.