Veronica Balick, a rising senior at Mount St. Mary’s University, has been awarded the Barry M. Goldwater scholarship for her continuing studies and work in cancer research.

“I was just really honored because it’s not something that I was really expecting,” Balick said. “I was just proud to be able to represent the Mount in that way because a lot of the other scholarship recipients are from much bigger-name schools.”

The Goldwater scholarship is awarded each year to college sophomores and juniors who intend to pursue research careers related to the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering. It is considered the most prestigious scholarship given in these fields of study.

Balick said the most important part of the application process was the research essay, where applicants were asked to describe research they had conducted and how that work could be used in the future.

For her application essay, Balick recounted the research she had done last summer at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Balick spent the summer in an immunology lab working on a new form of cancer treatment. This new method, according to Balick, would draw on the patient’s own immune system to fight the cancer instead of other medications that could potentially be harmful to the patient.

“What was great about being at St. Jude’s is ... patients were on the same floor and so when you’re walking in in the morning you’re walking in with all the families,” Balick said. “And that was a wonderful motivation to keep going into the lab every day and being like, OK, this is why I’m here, why I’m doing this.”

This summer, Balick is interning at the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research. After graduation next spring, Balick plans to attend graduate school and pursue her doctorate. She hopes to continue her work in cancer research and someday become a professor.

CDC study encourages more support for teens

A study released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that young adults who felt “connected” to family and school were more likely to lead a healthy life well beyond their teenage years.

According to the study, “connectedness” refers to “a sense of caring, support and belonging to family and school.”

The study followed the same people from middle and high school into their 20s and 30s.

Among those individuals, those who felt connected in their teenage years were 65 percent less likely to use illicit drugs or misuse prescription medication as adults; 54 percent less likely to be diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease as an adult; and 51 percent less likely to report having experienced violence.

According to a press release from the CDC, “Parents, other family members, teachers, and caregivers can foster connectedness by communicating openly and honestly and staying engaged, knowing what is going on in adolescents’ daily lives, and understanding when they might need extra support.”

Follow Katryna Perera on Twitter: @katrynajill.

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