Meet recipient of the University Medal, honoring graduating seniors demonstrating academic distinction, outstanding character and extracurricular community impact
Sherry Fan '21
Even in a class of high-achieving Honors College students, Sherry Fan’s intellect and enthusiasm stood out.
A dedicated researcher, devoted volunteer to fighting hunger and poverty, and burgeoning artist in communicating complex science, Fan is graduating with a 4.0 GPA and a dual degree in biological sciences and nutritional science.
“In my 42 years teaching at UMD, I have never taught an undergraduate student with
a stronger academic record,” says Todd J.Cooke, research professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics and founding director of the Integrated Life Sciences Program in the Honors College.
The daughter of an immigrant from rural China, Fan grew up in Montgomery County, Md., hearing his stories about not having enough food or fresh water—a motivation to seek ways to help those in dire need. She became a National Merit Scholarship finalist and earned a Banneker/Key Scholarship at the University of Maryland, where she joined the Food Recovery Network to reduce campus food waste and served meals at homeless shelters in Washington, D.C., as a member of
UMD Tzu Ching.
“I wanted to be able to give back to communities who were facing similar insecurities,” she says. “It was a personal issue to me.”
Fan worked for three years with Professor Wenxia Song on uncovering the cellular relationship between obesity, chronic inflammation and insulin resistance, and spent two summers interning at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, studying a cancer-promoting protein that could help with new treatments and analyzing potential genetic markers for aortic aneurysms. Fan will be a co-author on an upcoming paper in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE.
Beyond the lab, Fan led service trips to Kentucky and made coloring books for patients at the Children’s Inn at the National Institutes of Health—a talent that also landed one of her drawings with an article in Virology.
After graduation, Fan will pursue a dual M.D./Ph.D. at Cornell University and hopes to eventually work at an academic medical center to integrate service, research, art and teaching.
“I’ve grown a lot as a student but also as a human being during my time at UMD,” she says. “I was really able to step outside my own bubble.”