Nash named first N.C. State student to win Beacon of Enlightenment scholarship

When Colt Nash received word in the spring that he had been selected as the first N.C. State student to win a Beacon of Enlightenment Ph.D. scholarship from the University of Adelaide, he said it took him a few days to register the news.

“I am very excited about the scholarship,” Nash said. “The University of Adelaide is such a great school, and I am so grateful to have been chosen. I am an only child and the first in my family to pursue a Ph.D., so my parents are equally thrilled.”

In late August, fresh from earning his master’s degree in poultry science, Nash will finally set foot in South Australia to begin a study abroad experience like no other.

Under the guidance of Dr. Michael Beard, a microbiology and immunology research fellow at the University of Adelaide, Nash will work toward his Ph.D. in immunology/infectious disease. In particular, he will study viral gene expression in hepatitis C-infected liver cells in order to better understand disease progression.

This scholarship opportunity is the product of a growing collaboration between N.C. State and the University of Adelaide. According to David Dixon, international programs coordinator with the N.C. State Office of International Affairs, the two institutions have a strategic partnership to advance research collaboration and academic exchanges across areas of complementary strength and expertise.

“We envision our work with the University of Adelaide as a long-term, comprehensive partnership that will continue to expand research and academic exchanges for faculty, staff and students at both institutions,” Dixon said. “We’re very excited for Colt. He will be a wonderful ambassador for N.C. State.”

As a master’s student in poultry science in N.C. State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Nash examined Mx, a protein that cells make in response to viral infections. Mx has been shown in several animals, including humans, to be able to directly inhibit viral replication, according to Nash.

“Chickens have an Mx gene, and it appears to be expressed during virus infection but it doesn’t seem to inhibit virus,” Nash said. “Our group is interested in trying to understand why, and our lab has been working with a poultry genetics company to better characterize the chicken Mx.”

Nash said he is eager to expand on this work in Adelaide.

“I really want to get a new outlook on how research is conducted outside of the United States,” Nash said. “I hope by pursuing this scholarship opportunity, it will help me become a better scientist.

“I could not have achieved this without the help and guidance of my adviser, Dr. Matt Koci,” Nash said. “I am very honored to represent N.C. State.”

With 25,000 students, the University of Adelaide is one of Australia’s top research universities and has four onshore campuses. North Terrace, in the cultural heart of the city of Adelaide, is the main campus and site of most teaching and research facilities. University programs cover five different areas of study: engineering, computer and mathematical sciences; health sciences; humanities and social sciences; professions; and sciences.

N.C. State and University of Adelaide students can participate in semester or year-long exchange programs between the two institutions.

During his time in Australia, Nash also hopes to visit every territory on the continent, as well as travel in Asia, New Zealand and Tasmania. For now, though, his focus is on getting settled and digging in to his Ph.D. program.

“In the lab you need to be able to handle failures and keep working your way through them,” said Dr. Matt Koci, associate professor in CALS’ Prestage Department of Poultry Science, and Nash’s mentor. “Good grades are great, but hard work and the willingness to keep trying even when nothing is going your way are keys to success in research. Colt has demonstrated he has the raw tenacity needed to make a good research scientist. I’m confident that with his work ethic, and the guidance of Dr. Beard, Colt is going to excel at the University of Adelaide.”

– Suzanne Stanard

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