UT Arlington student Emmanuel Fordjour was a sophomore when he sought out Julian Hurdle, an assistant professor of biology, and asked if he could help research ways to fight a dangerous, hospital-acquired disease called Clostridium difficile infection, or CDI.
Just two years later, Fordjour’s work with Hurdle has put him in an elite class - named a winner of the Washington D.C.-based Council on Undergraduate Research’s 2014 Posters on the Hill
competition. Fordjour is one of just 60 undergraduate scholars from across the United States selected from a field of 600 applicants. In April, the winners will present their research to members of Congress, Congressional staffers and staff from government agencies.
Fordjour, a double major in biology and microbiology who plans to graduate in 2015, said the achievement represents another of the “mind-blowing” opportunities he has had since choosing to attend UT Arlington.
“My entire undergraduate career changed after I got into research,” said Fordjour, who moved to Irving from the United Kingdom after high school. “So many doors have opened up to me, chances that I never thought I would get.”
Hurdle said the prestigious award reflects the dedicated work of Fordjour and his research partner Kieu Doan, another undergraduate in the chemistry/biochemistry department.
“Emmanuel is a very promising scientific talent, exemplifying the high quality of students in the College of Science and undergraduate research participation in the Department of Biology,” Hurdle said. “This honor will provide him the opportunity to shine light on a disease that is hard to treat, frustrating to clinicians, causes much death and is now deemed an urgent public health threat by CDC.”
Clostridium difficult, an intestinal bacterium also known as C. difficile, causes severe diarrhea and is responsible for at least 250,000 hospitalizations and 14,000 deaths in the United States each year. Elderly and hospitalized patients are especially susceptible. Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention named C. difficile one of the three most “urgent drug resistant health threats.”
Fordjour saw firsthand the toll that C. difficile could take while volunteering at Baylor Medical Center at Irving.
“C. difficile just stood out to me because it’s a formidable pathogen. You get sick and you think you’re done with it, and it comes back,” said