Senior at UMass Amherst on USA Today All-USA College Academic First Team

AMHERST, Mass. - Helena Horak, a senior at the University of Massachusetts, has been named to the First Team of the All-USA College Academic Team by the national daily newspaper USA Today. Horak is one of 20 college students in the country chosen for the First Team for outstanding intellectual achievement and leadership. Horak will be recognized tonight, Feb. 27, during the UMass men''s basketball game at the Mullins Center.

Four times a year, USA Today honors outstanding students and educators with the All-USA Academic and Teacher Teams. The 20 students and educators selected for the First Teams are featured in the Feb. 27 edition of the newspaper. The students each receive $2,500 cash awards.

The First Team was selected from a group of nearly 600 students nominated by colleges in 46 states and the District of Columbia. A panel of judges considered grades, leadership, activities, and how students extend their intellectual talents beyond the classroom.

"USA Today is proud to continue its commitment to honoring academic excellence and community service throughout the country," said USA Today Editor Karen Jurgensen.

Horak, 21, of Westlake Village, Calif., is pursuing a double major in biochemistry and biology, and a double minor in chemistry and anthropology. As an Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation Scholar,she is investigating reproductive neuroendocrinology in the lab of Sandra L. Petersen, professor of biology at UMass. Last summer, Horak won a National Institutes of Health Biomedical Research Fellowship to study nuclear proteins associated with drug-resistance in ovarian cancers. She is co-captain of the University''s Division I women''s tennis team, and has earned both personal and team honors. She participates in the Citizen Scholar Community Service Program and the Lewis International Program at UMass.

Susan K. Whitbourne, professor of psychology and coordinator of the Office of National Scholarship Advisement at UMass, nominated Horak. "With her enormous breadth and depth of involvement in every aspect of life at this University, Helena embodies the kind of individual we believe has the potential to change the world," Whitbourne said. "I am excited and proud to think that our University could have produced such an outstanding scholar and, more importantly, a young woman with such an intense passion for humanitarian goals."

Petersen notes that Horak''s demanding course load and participation in several extracurricular activities "makes it all the more impressive that Helena has designed and executed a neuroscience research project independently." Petersen continued, "One might imagine a frazzled young woman, but that is not the case. Helena is, in fact, a rather serene person who is well liked by people in the laboratory and by her classmates. She is able to accomplish her goals with equanimity because of her well-honed organizational skills and her ability to prioritize tasks. These skills will continue to serve her well as she pursues advanced studies."

Horak intends to pursue the field of medical research, and says her experiences at UMass have helped focus and expand her interests and goals. "My future interests are to develop cross-cultural comparisons of disease. During my university education, my interactions with people from a variety of nationalities and social backgrounds have seeded my thoughts on how cultural behavioral patterns and environmental influences affect disease," Horak said. "By integrating scientific techniques from my research and classes, while understanding the social perspective, I hope to develop the picture of diseases as a whole."

Criteria for the All-USA College Academic Team were developed in consultation with USA Today''s education co-sponsors: the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, the American Council on Education, and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. The All-USA College Academic Team is open to full-time undergraduates at four-year institutions in the USA and its territories.