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Katherine Moravec’s Cancer Cell Research Leads to Goldwater Scholarship and Harvard Summer Stem Cell Experience

March 29, 2013

By Dale Long, Director of Media Relations


Katherine Moravec’s love of science and research has been rewarded with her selection among an elite group of America’s Goldwater Scholars, one of the most prestigious honors for undergraduate science, engineering, and mathematics students.

  On The Move: Katherine Moravec, a junior chemical engineering major, has been named a Goldwater Scholar and is planning to spend the summer as a research intern in Harvard Medical School’s prestigious Stem Cell Institute. (Photo by Larry Ladig)

This news comes after the junior chemical engineering major from Seymour, Indiana was chosen to participate in a summer internship at the Harvard Medical School’s Stem Cell Institute.

“Research is so exciting. It’s where I feel that I can make a difference,” says Moravec. “You read about all of the exciting medical discoveries being made every day, and it all starts in the research laboratory.”

Moravec has spent two years working alongside Chemistry and Biochemistry Professor Ross Weatherman, PhD, on a National Institutes of Health-funded project examining new compounds to treat tamoxifen-resistant breast cancer. She has synthesized tamoxifen analogs, learned the basics of chemical synthesis, and developed a protein expression system for estrogen receptor in bacteria.

“Katherine figured out the conceptual aims and issues of her project even when she was working on projects that were pretty far ahead of her classroom training,” states Weatherman. “The chemical engineering major is somewhat unusual for someone this interested in a career in biomedical research, but it makes her a stronger student with broad training. She is definitely someone who has research in her future.”

Moravec is one of 271 Goldwater Scholars chosen this year, from a field of 1,107 students nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities. She is one of seven Indiana college students chosen on the basis of academic merit; one of 95 female students selected; and one of 71 engineering majors featured this year.

With a near-perfect 3.98 grade point average, Moravec is interested continuing research at medical school, preferably in the field of stem cells. That’s where this summer’s internship at Harvard’s Stem Cell Institute (June 10 through August 16) could pave the way for her future. She was one of 35 students from throughout the world selected from over 500 applicants.

“I will know a lot more about what I want to do after my summer at Harvard. It could open so many doors for the future,” Moravec says, adding that she is adding a minor in biochemistry and molecular biology to her academic resume.  

Away from the science lab and classroom, Moravec is president of the Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society, vice president of administration for the Delta Delta Delta female fraternity, and a member of the varsity track and cross country teams.

“I’m a good team player,” she admits.

Weatherman agrees, adding, “Katherine’s intellect, perseverance and social skills are her greatest strengths. She does not have many weaknesses. I think the summer undergraduate experience at Harvard will help her crystallize decisions about her future in medical research.”