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USD Neuroscience and Chemistry Student Named Harvard University Amgen Scholar

Rachel Rucker wearing a white coat in a lab. Lab materials are around her and she is wearing safety glasses. Rachel Rucker, a junior neuroscience and chemistry double major, was named a 2020 Harvard University Amgen Scholar.

VERMILLION, S.D. – Rachel Rucker, a junior neuroscience and chemistry double major student at the University of South Dakota, has been named a 2020 Harvard University Amgen Scholar.

Harvard University Amgen Scholars will conduct biotechnology-focused research with world-leading scientific scholars over the course of a 10-week residential summer research program. Scholars will have the opportunity to interact closely with faculty, graduate students and other members of Harvard’s academic community. They will take part in scholarly and pre-professional development activities, including faculty and graduate student research talks and panels on careers in and beyond the academy.

This year’s program has been canceled due to COVID-19, but Rucker will be able to defer her position until next summer without having to reapply.

“I am really excited to have the opportunity to connect with and learn more from other researchers within my peer cohort and from the faculty at Harvard University,” said Rucker, a Yankton, South Dakota native. “I’m also really excited to take part in the Amgen Scholars Symposium in Los Angeles. I'll present my summer research and meet all the Amgen Scholars from throughout the United States.”

Rucker is currently researching, under the direction of USD basic biomedical sciences professor Brian Burrell, Ph.D., to understand a protein’s ability to synthesize a neurotransmitter that may be used as a potential treatment to chronic pain. This summer, she will work on a migraine research project under Dan Levy, Ph.D, a professor and researcher at Harvard University.

“I hope to become a better researcher by expanding my current skill set and conducting migraine research,” said Rucker. “I hope to gain insight on what type of migraine research I want to do in the future and how to pursue a career in migraine research.”


USD's College of Arts & Sciences offers students a top-notch undergraduate liberal arts education in the humanities, social sciences and sciences as well as graduate programs that have earned USD distinction as a research university by the Carnegie Foundation. The college's more than 22,000 alumni include famous journalists, Hollywood screenwriters, novelists, a Nobel Prize winner, South Dakota governors, attorneys, physicians, justices of the state Supreme Court, distinguished university faculty and international humanitarians.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 84 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Hanna DeLange
USD News