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Oklahoma State University

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Ph.D. Student Awarded Durham Fellowship

Radwa Hanafy in the lab


For Radwa Hanafy, a Ph.D. student in the Microbiology & Molecular Genetics Department, being acknowledged by, first, her department and then all the way to the Graduate College provided a sense of needed validation.

“It’s like the people who are working on science approve you. It’s giving you trust or confidence to continue,” she said. “So it’s not just the money – it’s the award itself.

“Sometimes it's dark days. So [the award] reminds you, you’re doing something and you need to keep going.”

Yet, the recognition isn’t the only thing that can motivate and teach Hanafy about longevity and keeping on.

Ironically, the fellowship that helped give Hanafy credibility to herself and awarded her $1000 is also named after a man who left a massive impact on multiple other graduate students in his time and was also involved with microbiology.

Dr. Norman Durham served as the longest-serving dean of the Graduate College between 1967 and 1991 and has many accolades – including being inducted into the Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame – for his role as dean as well as a microbiology professor and other administrative positions.

In his days, he liked building relationship with graduate students which could happen more readily as Durham remained a researcher even as dean.


Radwa Hanafy in the lab


As one of Durham’s latest impacts, Hanafy, who is from Egypt, has been doing research on the taxonomy and phylogenetic diversity of the anaerobic gut fungi which is found in the gut of herbivores.

“This fungi mainly helps the animals to digest the plant using their enzymes,” Hanafy said.

“This is the only group of fungi that are strictly anaerobe.”

In order to get the samples she needed, though, Hanafy had to visit a place probably a lot of the fellowship winners awarded this semester didn’t have to go.

To the nearest goat poop.

“We used a culture approach by going and getting samples – which is mainly poop of the goat – and then we try to isolate these fungi,” Hanafy said.

During her research, Hanafy and her team were able to double the diversity of the anaerobic gut fungi while also observing whether domestication had any effects on the fungi found in the herbivores.


Radwa Hanafy sitting in her office


Hanafy was also able to publish some of her work, something she says helped make a case for the award.

“Having publication is like having [a] translation of your work,” she said. “By publication in a peer review journal, means that your work deserved to be published.

“So you’re doing something.”

Even still, Hanafy remembers to give credit to those around her including Dr. Noha Youssef – who she is a research assistant for – as well as her lab and department.

“I’m just really honored to be recognized by the Dean of the Graduate College, by the department,” Hanafy said. “My department nominated me and believed in me and of course my PI, my lab, everyone put a piece in the CV.”

“I’m happy.”