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Waldorf Biology Students Shine at Various Research Centers This Summer

Dildora Farhatova at Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, Florida

By Suyaishar Sebastian

This summer, three of Waldorf’s Biology majors had a golden opportunity to be a part of research at the renowned Harvard Medical School, University of Iowa – Carver College of Medicine and Mayo Clinic.

Rakshya Thapa, Jennet Hojanazarova and Dildora Farhatova were the pride of the Waldorf Biology Department when they each got selected to be a part of research programs around the country during summer.

Thapa’s research at University of Iowa was related to the study of cardiovascular diseases and Diabetes, while Hojanazarova’s at Harvard and Farhatova’s at Mayo Clinic were on Cancer and Neuroscience respectively.

“I was fascinated by plants when I took Botany in middle school and later, I was so amazed about the human physiology,” said Hojanazarova, a recent Waldorf graduate. “I mean there is so much we still do not know and there are a lot of things to discover.”

Thapa, a junior from Nepal, said that she has always been interested in Biology but the biology course that she took in high school made her want to pursue a career in this field.

Farhatova, a senior from Turkmenistan, said that she used to focus a lot on mathematics and physics but after her grandmother passed away from liver cirrhosis, she became keen to study more about life sciences.

“I wanted to be more useful to people’s current lives,” Farhatova added.

All three of them expressed similar sentiments about the role Waldorf University played in their academic and research journey.

“Waldorf challenged me in my pursuit of knowledge,” said Hojanazarova. “My professors kept science exciting. It is true, I had to do a lot of homework, many lab reports, long lab hours, and research proposals, but without those challenges I would not be where I am today.”

Thapa said that she would not have been able to do the research without Waldorf University.

“I was constantly supported by my professors,” said Thapa. “The Office of Academic Affairs, Biology and Chemistry Department and Honors College also played a huge role in my research journey at University of Iowa. I cannot thank Waldorf University enough for believing in me and providing me with this wonderful opportunity and for giving me this once in a lifetime experience.”  

Farhatova said that she would not be here without her professors.

“When my professors knew that I aspired to do research at Mayo Clinic, Dr. Coombs trained and encouraged me while I did my senior research during my junior year to prepare me for a summer research experience,” said Farhatova.

However, this journey was not entirely a walk in the park.

“The main challenge was to find funds to be able to go and do research at University of Iowa,” said Thapa. “Another challenge for me was to be able to learn so many new skills in such a short period of time. I did not have any full-time research experience, so it was kind of challenging for me to keep up with all the new skills that I used to learn every day.”

Hojanazarova said that she is learning a lot of new skills that she will need in her career as a scientist and that they are currently finishing a paper which will be submitted to journals for publication, however, the only challenge is that 24 hours a day is insufficient.  

“I wish there was more time during the day and that I was a superhuman who does not need sleep,” said Hojanazarova. “But that is impossible, human body requires an adequate amount of sleep for best performance.”

These bright biology majors also shared their hopes for their promising futures highlighting that these summer research experiences impacted their decision making for their future after graduation.  

“I am loving studying cancer research and hoping to continue in this field, but science is very broad and involves a lot of skills even if you are only working in one field,” said Hojanazarova. “For example, to do cancer research, it is essential that one knows cell biology, immunology, and genetics well and knowing that takes time and effort. Therefore, I know I will not be bored in my career path, and I am very happy about that.”

Thapa said that this summer made her realize her passion towards research and she is inclining towards going to graduate school in the future, while Farhatova aims to pursue a doctorate in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Without a doubt, Waldorf’s science department will be proud to claim these three as one of their own.