Yana Astter ’21 receives competitive National Institutes of Health fellowship
Carthage alumna Yana Astter ’21 was recently accepted into the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Postbaccalaureate program.
NIH, made up of 27 institutions, is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The NIH Postbac program provides recent graduates planning to apply to graduate or professional school the opportunity to “work side-by-side with some of the leading scientists in the world, in an environment devoted exclusively to biomedical research.”
Ms. Astter credits her Carthage professors with opening doors to opportunities that bring her closer to becoming a physician-scientist. “I am very grateful for the relationships I have been able to build and for the incredible opportunities offered at Carthage that helped me find my passion and career path in research.”
While at Carthage, Ms. Astter double majored in chemistry and biology with a concentration in pre-health. As a freshman, she quickly showed interest in research opportunities at the College. She participated in the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience the summer after her freshman year, continuing up until her graduation.
“Yana showed great initiative, studying the primary literature and proposing new experiments to explore further interesting results we saw in the lab,” says Professor John Kirk. “I feel truly blessed to have worked with her in the classroom and the research lab.”
In summer 2019, Ms. Astter participated in the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates program at Johns Hopkins University, where she studied the characteristics of synthetic biomolecular particles that could be developed into cancer treatments or improving tissue regeneration.
In summer 2020, Ms. Astter furthered her research experience during a virtual internship at the University of Minnesota, where she studied research on tuberculous meningitis.
“Yana’s motivation and success in scientific research is rare among students at this point in their collegiate career,” says Professor Christine Blaine. “Her track record in research and her passion for developing research ideas lays the foundation for excellent work at NIH and as a medical research scientist.”
In addition to being involved in multiple projects, Ms. Astter established herself among her peers as a member of the Chemistry Club and Pre-health Club all four years at Carthage and Beta Beta Beta Biology Honors Society for two years. She also worked as a resident assistant and as a tutor in the Chemistry Department.
Ms. Astter was also the first Carthage student to receive the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship, which is given to “college sophomores and juniors who show exceptional promise of becoming this Nation’s next generation of research leaders.”
“The faculty I have grown close with at Carthage encouraged me to apply for research programs and later apply for the Goldwater Scholarship,” says Ms. Astter. “I was the first student at Carthage to get the scholarship, which helped grow my confidence to apply to further competitive fellowships like the one provided through NIH.”
As the winner of the Cancer Research Training Award (CRTA), Ms. Astter will carry out her NIH fellowship at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md. She will spend the next two years researching Kaposi sarcoma, a cancer that causes lesions in the soft tissues, and the associated virus.
“The NIH fellowship is a great opportunity for Yana to further develop her research skills, specifically on a biomedical project. Being able to focus on this research full-time will prepare her well for an M.D./Ph.D. program,” says Prof. Kirk. “These programs are highly competitive and incredibly rigorous, with graduates practicing medicine while researching new cutting-edge treatments and procedures.”