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Love of Music and Work with the Elderly Helped Scholarship Winner Set Her Career Path

Katherine Wang at the piano in Fuller Lodge where she grew up playing recitals. Her joy in music grew from personal exploration to a means of connecting with others. (Photos: LANL Foundation, Andrea Multari)

May, 2016 – Katherine Wang describes herself as “independent.” From an early age she was self-driven and focused on academics. Her interest in music and playing the piano were enjoyable but very personal, not shared with others beyond the required recitals. This reserve would later shift, marking a change in not only her own perspectives on music, but also on her hopes and ambitions in other areas of life.

In high school Katherine volunteered at the Los Alamos Senior Center and played piano at nursing homes. She found a way to use her love of music to connect with the elderly, and her playing became more lively and often inspired sing-alongs. “Piano was no longer about the perfection demanded by competitions. Playing was about communicating with others regardless of the fine details,” she said with a smile.

Through her work with senior citizens, this reserved and individually focused young woman has developed a deeper sense of empathy for others. She recalls visiting with a woman who told stories about her late husband and “the war,” repeating details and losing her train of thought. “Communicating with others is a beautiful process, and it’s so hard to see someone lose that.”

Katherine’s academic pursuits also became more inclusive as she recognized that working alongside her peers, learning from shared experiences, and uniting people were more effective and enjoyable. Forensics Speech and Debate, National Honors Society, and Science Bowl balance out the impressive list of AP classes she had taken at Los Alamos High School.

Further inspired to learn and connect with people, Katherine took on a job at the Los Alamos Medical Center where she experienced how physics is used in diagnostic and treatment processes. She saw that biology and physics, her two favorite subjects, could be combined in a single career direction that focuses on research and helps others.

An internship at the Laboratory last summer allowed Katherine to witness the application of knowledge close to home. Through her work in computer science with CCS-2 she learned C++ computer programming language and assisted with software development. While the focus on technology appealed to her, she hopes to connect with a group and mentor at the Lab more in line with her calling in biophysics.

This fall, Katherine will attend Princeton University to pursue her interest in research that applies a physics approach to medical or biological problems. She is not only interested in conducting research but also wants to help develop health policies that use science and technology to better serve the public. Through Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School she hopes to take part in a Policy Task Force to share technology research and discoveries and facilitate solutions to challenges faced in more impoverished regions of the world.

Katherine is grateful for the $20,000 Gold Scholarship from Los Alamos Employees’ Scholarship Fund that will help to support her ambitious goals as an undergraduate student. “This scholarship means that I can go to Princeton, one of the few universities that has an undergraduate senior thesis requirement, similar to a graduate degree. I’m thankful to the donors. They give motivation and send a message to students that someone is investing in our futures.”

“I want to make an impact through research in biophysics and to understand and treat diseases such as Alzheimer’s to improve quality of life,” she said. “I’m definitely hoping to come back to New Mexico. There’s a lot of scientific discovery in this state that’s inaccessible elsewhere.”

About the Los Alamos Employees’ Scholarship Fund
The Los Alamos Employees’ Scholarship Fund program began in 1998 and is administered for the Laboratory by the LANL Foundation. As of 2016, more than 1,100 scholarships have been awarded totaling $5.5 million to students in the Northern New Mexico counties of Los Alamos, Mora, Rio Arriba, San Miguel, Sandoval, Santa Fe and Taos. Laboratory employees have donated $3.7 million to the fund.

The Los Alamos Employees’ Scholarship Fund encourages Laboratory employees, retirees and subcontractor personnel to donate to a fund that awards college scholarships to Northern New Mexico students. Contributions from businesses and individuals outside the Lab may also be made year round through the LANL Foundation.

For more information about the scholarship program, or for questions about making annual donations and planned gifts contact Tony Fox, Vice President of Institutional Advancement & Scholarships at tony@lanlfoundation.org or 505.753-8890.

2016 Gold Scholars Solomon Sindelar, Arasely Rodriguez, and Katherine Wang/td>

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