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Katherine Wang

Love of Music and Compassion for Others Inspire Scholarship Winner

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 peers 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 music to connect with the elderly, and her playing became more lively and often inspired sing-alongs.

Katherine Wang at the piano in Fuller Lodge where she grew up playing recitals. Her joy of music grew from personal exploration to a means of connecting with others.

“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 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 than her solitary focus. 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 into a single career direction focused on research and helping others.

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

This scholarship means that I can achieve my dream and go to Princeton I’m thankful to the donors. They give motivation and send a message to students that someone is investing in our futures.

In 2016, Katherine began attending Princeton University to pursue her interest in research that applies a physics approach to medical and 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 looks to take part in a Policy Task Force to share technology research and discoveries and facilitate solutions to challenges faced in 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 achieve my dream and go to Princeton, one of the few universities that has an undergraduate senior thesis requirement, similar to a graduate degree,“ she said. “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.”