Mikaela Elder, a current participant in the Student Support Services Academic Advancement Center at Colorado State University, was recently awarded the Barry Goldwater Scholarship. Regarded as the most prestigious scholarship given to undergraduate students in the natural sciences, engineering, and mathematics, it is granted annually to about 300 college students from across the country. The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by the United States Congress in 1986 in honor of former U.S. Senator and 1964 presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. Its goal is to provide a continuing source of professionals in STEM by awarding scholarships to college students who intend to pursue careers in these fields.
Her motivation to pursue a career in STEM has been influenced by her own personal life experience with a genetic condition. Diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) and Mast Cell Activation Disorder (MCAD) when she was twenty-one years old, Mikaela was determined to not to allow this health issue to negatively impact her from pursuing her goals. In her words, “Though I struggle as times, I believe that POTS and MCAD have given me invaluable skills to manage stress and maintain a positive attitude, even through difficult situations. This outlook has been an advantage to my education because I am now motivated by challenges instead of being intimidated by them.”
As a senior in the College of Natural Sciences at CSU pursuing a baccalaureate degree in biochemistry, Mikaela has conducted research involving proteins in relation to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and other neurodegenerative diseases. She is also currently working on a bioinformatics project as well as a statistics research project involving methane gas at landfills. Her career goal is to become a computational biologist for the Center for Disease Control or a medical institution where she can conduct research in mechanisms and factors affecting genetic diseases. Her journey will continue after her graduation next May as she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in computational biology or computational medicine. “My research experience at CSU has shown me that research is my life’s calling,” Elder said. “I really enjoy the research process. I feel really fortunate to be at a place that prepares students to be amongst the best in the country.”