Yana Astter ’21 is the first Carthage student selected as a Goldwater Scholar
Yana Astter ’21 has been selected for the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship. Since 1986, the Goldwater Scholarship Foundation has sought “to identify and support college sophomores and juniors who show exceptional promise of becoming this Nation’s next generation of research leaders” in the fields of natural science, mathematics, and engineering. Yana is one of 396 Goldwater Scholars announced in this year’s competition, which consisted of students nominated by colleges and universities nationwide. The scholarship awards her with $7,500 to apply to her senior-year studies.
Yana came to Carthage from Johnsburg, Illinois with a desire to enter the health sciences. She declared majors in chemistry and biology with a pre-health concentration, and soon became involved in on-campus research. She quickly developed interests in the science of small particles and the field of nanotechnology, which has potential applications in environmental health, medicine, and other areas. In Professor John Kirk’s laboratory, Yana joined in efforts to synthesize gold and silica nanoparticles for use as a sensor for detecting organic compounds in water, carrying the project through to a Carthage Summer Undergraduate Research Experience project and into subsequent semesters.
“It was clear from the beginning that Yana would be an excellent researcher,” says Prof. Kirk. “As a first-year student, she pushed the whole lab forward by being proactive in planning and carrying out experiments, reading the current scientific literature, and contributing significantly to understanding our experimental results.”
The summer following her sophomore year, Yana conducted research at Johns Hopkins University through the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates program. She studied the characteristics of synthetic biomolecular particles that could be developed into new therapies, such as cancer treatments or improving tissue regeneration. Her work at Carthage College and at Johns Hopkins University has resulted in numerous conference presentations.
Outside of the laboratory and classroom, Yana is active as a leader of the Pre-Health Club and Chemistry Club and serves as a tutor in the Chemistry Department and a Resident Assistant in the residence halls.
“Since coming to Carthage, Yana has taken charge of her education and examined ways to improve herself and her academic and research experiences. The Chemistry Department noticed her early promise when she was awarded the Outstanding Chemist Award as a sophomore,” says Professor Christine Blaine. “As intelligent and amazing as Yana is, she is also very humble. She is always helping other students learn course material whether as a tutor or as a peer. She gives all of herself in so many ways to others, and she is respected and loved by her classmates, teachers, and students.”
Yana intends to pursue physician-scientist training (M.D./Ph.D.) and ultimately a research career developing nanotechnologies to diagnose and treat diseases. “Being a recipient of the Goldwater Scholarship reveals to me that I am on the right path to developing a career in research and encourages me further to pursue translational medicine,” says Yana. “I am excited to see the opportunities this award will bring me in my career.”
Looking back on her college studies, Yana recognizes Carthage faculty and other professors as being essential in her advancement. “I am grateful for the support and guidance I have from my mentors at Carthage, especially Professor Dan Choffnes, Prof. Kirk, and Prof. Blaine. I am also grateful to have the mentorship of Professor Stavroula Sofou and Dominick Salerno at Johns Hopkins University,” says Yana. “It is only because of these incredible people that I can now call myself a Goldwater Scholar.”
Yana’s Goldwater Scholarship marks the first time a Carthage student has been selected for the award, a point of pride among her mentors, who will follow her career with anticipation. “She is going to be an outstanding woman scientist, and I look forward to watching her make serious contributions to medical research in the future,” says Prof. Blaine.
The Goldwater Foundation is a federally endowed agency established by Public Law 99-661 on November 14, 1986. The scholarship program honoring Senator Barry Goldwater was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue research careers in the fields of the natural sciences, engineering, and mathematics. The Goldwater Scholarship is the preeminent undergraduate award of its type in these fields.