Mizzou Biology Senior Wins Hesburgh Award

Juliann Leak, a senior double majoring in biological sciences and psychological sciences, has been selected as the recipient of this year's Senior year Hesburgh Award. 

The awards are made possible by the TIAA-CREF Hesburgh Endowment Fund. Four students are selected each year, one from each of the four undergraduate classes. Recipients are selected for academic achievement. 

Leak carries out undergraduate research in the lab of Dr. Laura Schulz with the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Women’s Health in MU’s School of Medicine. In the Schulz lab, Leak has been contributing to research that uses stem cells to understand how specialized cells of the placenta form during early pregnancy. Leak has shown that a structural protein, abundantly localized in the heart, also plays a critical role in formation of placental cells. She has shown that, without this protein, developing placenta cells do not make enough of a hormone needed to maintain pregnancy. 

“I am feeling incredibly grateful to be chosen for this recognition and for all the mentors, especially Dr. Laura Schulz, who have helped me get to this point in my undergraduate experience,” shared Leak upon learning of her selection. 

Leak is heading to medical school after she graduates in May 2022. Her long-term plans are to be a physician and pursue clinical research.