At 24 years old, April Booth has already received a number of awards especially as a student at Fresno State.
Both recently being named a Trustee Emeritus Peter Mehas Scholar for her outstanding academic achievement and commitment to community service despite adversity.
The award, officially called The California State University Trustees’ Awards, is the highest recognition of student achievement and provides scholarships of up to $12,000 to one student at each CSU campus who’s in financial need, have experienced personal hardship and exhibit exemplary scholastic performance and community service.
Booth applied for the award last spring and was notified that she had won in July.
“I was really shocked that I got the award because, honestly, I really didn’t think I would get it,” Booth said. “I’m not going to lie, I was very, very surprised.”
Booth described the process of applying for the award as, “one of the most tedious scholarships I have applied for.”
Some of the requirements include a potential speech that is video recorded and is from two to three minutes long, a personal statement and a one-page summary on why one should receive the award.
Booth, who is completing her master’s degree in biology, was born in Oakland but grew up in Coarsegold, which has a population of just over 1,000 people.
While growing up as an only child, Booth had always been told by her parents that getting an education is key to having a better life. Not wanting to disappoint, Booth studied hard in school and excelled in all her classes, but only one of them would be the key to her future – biology.
“My first biology teacher just made it seem so exciting and cool to understand the natural phenomenon that is going on around you with life and organisms,” Booth said. “But what also drew me to it is the idea of all the research that is being done that could help the world.”
After graduating at the top of her class at Yosemite High School, Booth had the grades to attend any college she wanted, but instead chose to enroll at Fresno State because a certain professor’s research grabbed her interest.
Dr. David Lent’s biology research with fruit flies as a model for Alzheimer’s disease piqued her curiosity and it would later lead to her own research on the subject.
As an undergrad, she was accepted into the Smittcamp Family Honors College, served as the historian, treasurer and then president of the Tri Beta Biology Club – a club for students interested in biology and in biological research – and was inducted into a number of honor societies such as The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi, Golden Key International Honour Society and Tri Beta National Biological Honor Society.
Booth graduated from Fresno State in 2014 with bachelor’s degrees in both biology and chemistry with a 3.98 GPA.
“I’m just really surprised that I was able to do that,” said Booth of her academic achievements.
Booth expects to graduate with her master’s in the spring of 2016. Her research is focused on testing the effects of caffeine on the memory and lifespan of fruit flies expressing Alzheimer’s disease symptoms.
Booth said she came up with the topic for her research project because she not only has a keen interest in studying neurological diseases and conditions, but was also curious if there were any measures that can prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
“I really like coffee a lot so I was like, ‘Oh, maybe I should look and see if there is any literature on whether or not drinking coffee and having caffeine in your diet can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease,’” Booth said. “There is a lot of research done on it that indicates that if people have caffeine in their diet and if they are genetically manipulated to have some type of Alzheimer’s disease pathology, they will have less memory deficits and they will be healthier. So I was real interested in seeing if we could do the same types of experiments with a fruit fly because there wasn’t a lot of literature or work done with fruit flies.”
After graduating, Booth hopes to continue her educational journey and pursue a doctorate in neuroscience from one of three universities she has applied for, including: Oregon Health and Science University, University of California, Riverside and University of California, Davis.
“I am real interested in studying neurological diseases and conditions and just behavior in general and at these schools there are some researchers that I corresponded with that might be able to let me do some studies and experiments,” Booth said. “I just know that I want to be a part of neuroscience research in some way. I really hope to maybe hopefully be a part of some of the big issues regarding certain neurological diseases.”
Booth’s interest in studying neurological diseases began when she was only 3 years old when her mother, who was a college student at the time, was in a car accident that left her paralyzed from the chest down. She has since been diagnosed with quadriplegia, a condition where the patient becomes fully or partially paralyzed from the neck down and is unable to move their arms or legs.
The incident left a permanent psychological scar on Booth, she said but also made her curious about how neuroscience works.
“It made me realize that you have to be grateful for what you have because it can change really fast,” Booth said. “My mom is my inspiration for pursuing this career, and I want to be a part of all the research that is being done that could help people like her lead normal lives.”
Booth is also trying to help others by volunteering her time, with local community organization, most recently at Valley Children’s Hospital.
While there, Booth helped nurses rock the children to sleep and engaged the children in writing and counting games.
“They were really fun experiences,” Booth said. “Some of my experiences at Valley Children’s Hospital were really eye-opening because some of the things that kids have to go through when they are so young are pretty crazy, but it felt nice to be able to help them maybe at least feel a little bit better for a few minutes. That was really satisfying.”
Another experience that filled Booth with joy was when she volunteered for the Natural Science Club – a Fresno State student organization for future science and math teachers.
Her main focus was to help out with the club’s outreach program, Circuit Science, which gives elementary students hands-on science experiments and activities in topics like biology, chemistry, physics and geology.
Booth loved helping out so much that she volunteered for it four times during her summer vacations and winter breaks.
“It was really fun because I really love biology, and it was really fun working at the biology station trying to get the kids excited about learning about what biomes are,” Booth said. “It was all just really fun.”
Even though Booth is usually busy at all hours of the day, whenever she gets time off, she loves to read “Harry Potter” books and go on long hikes in Yosemite.
“I am kind of a nerd,” Booth said. “I still like – it is not exactly reading –
but I still listen to the Harry Potter audiobooks all the time because I just really love Harry Potter.”
Lent, who is now Booth’s thesis and research adviser, said she is a very engaged student and passionate about science and research.
“She demonstrates continued dedication to her classes, research and teaching,” Lent said. “She truly cares about academics and students.”
Lent, who had Booth as a student in an undergraduate course in neurophysiology, said she invests a considerable amount of time into expanding her scientific literacy and writing and is improving as a scientist.
“Her dedication to helping others understand and appreciate science and research is also an incredible part of her character,” Lent said. “April has shown herself to be persistent in her educational pursuits, even when she encounters obstacles in life, work, or school. She seems to push forward undeterred.”
Henry Eurgubian, the office manager for Eurgubian Academic Center Inc in Fresno, has known Booth for the two years she worked there as a tutor and said she was one of the finest tutors he has ever met.
“She was a very conscientious tutor, and she did a good job for us as far as working with the students,” Eurgubian said. “She got along well with them and was able to help them in their subject matter.”
Eurgubian said Booth stood out because of her friendly personality and her dedication to do the best job she can.
“Her leadership ability and her self-confidence were the most important things,” Eurgubian said. “Basically being able to get along with not only other employees, but the customers, the people that come in.”