Ola Bartolik ’22 was selected by the National Science Foundation (NSF) as a Graduate Research Fellow to support her undergraduate career at the University of Michigan.
Bartolik will graduate from Kalamazoo College in June with a chemistry degree with a concentration in biochemistry and a minor psychology. He will start a PhD in August. program at the University of Michigan, where you previously participated in research in Paul Jenkins’ lab for his Senior Integrated Project.
The National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF GRFP) recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in STEM disciplines who are pursuing research-based masters and doctoral degrees at accredited US institutions. The five-year scholarship includes three years of financial support, including an annual stipend of $ 34,000 and a $ 12,000 school allowance cost to the institution. The scholarship also provides access to professional development opportunities.
Approximately 2,000 candidates are offered a scholarship from more than 12,000 candidates per competition.
“I think it’s really important that K’s students are aware of the scholarship,” Bartolik said. Bartolik said the application process offered experience writing a research proposal and reinforced his specialization questions by demonstrating that he was already thinking about funding and research. While Bartolik had considered taking a gap year before entering graduate school, the combination of the fellowship offer with the community he had already found at the University of Michigan while working on his SIP resulted in proved irresistible.
“I had a lot of doubts that I could really undergo a PhD. or if I had the skills and knowledge to do it, “Bartolik said.” If the National Science Foundation has seen enough potential to invest in me, that makes me think I’m ready for graduate school.
“When I posted the announcement on my academic Twitter, Paul Jenkins retweeted it and the University of Michigan neuroscience program retweeted it as well. The program leader sent me an email saying I must be really proud. . I hadn’t yet committed to graduate school and they were already celebrating with me. “
Bartolik was quick to share the news with K.’s chemistry department as well.
“We are very proud of Ola,” said Blakely Tresca, Roger F. and Harriet G. Varney Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. “This is an extraordinary achievement for an undergraduate student before starting a PhD. program. Ola is the first chemistry degree in 25 years to earn this honor while still a student at K.
Bartolik will earn his PhD. as part of the University of Michigan’s Program in Biomedical Sciences (PIBS), an umbrella program that encompasses a variety of research fields including neuroscience, pharmacology, biochemistry and more.
“I’m really interested in trying to combine neuroscience and pharmacology, or neuroscience and chemistry, to design new drugs or new molecules that could be used for research or for therapeutic purposes,” Bartolik said. “My goal has always been to combine chemistry with neuroscience because I like chemistry; I don’t want to let it go. Neuroscience can be very bio-heavy and I feel that having a chemist’s point of view on biological systems like the brain is really valuable. “
Although his graduate work at PIBS is funded, Bartolik said, research opportunities may be limited based on each lab’s available funding.
“The scholarship opens me up to more lab opportunities and makes it easier for me to secure a place in a lab,” Bartolik said.
At this point, Bartolik is interested in possible careers in a pharmaceutical or biomedical company, as well as in the field of science communication.
“Something that has been increasingly interesting to me is science communication and how to effectively communicate science to people who don’t have the background,” Bartolik said. “SIP was a good practice; even though it was to an important chemistry audience, I still had to explain how neurons work and why this research is important. I have found that I like to present; I don’t get as nervous as I used to. And I like to tinker with my work around neuroscience, so I think it’s something I want to explore more, opportunities in journalism or some kind of science communication. “
In addition to the professional achievement and practical benefits, the award is personally significant to Bartolik.
“My father died in 2017 of a heart attack,” Bartolik said. “He always supported me in high school, in everything I did. And I feel he would have been so proud of me. I felt it with me, in celebration. My parents left everything in Poland so that my sisters and I could have a better life and more opportunities. I feel like I am realizing this and trying to get the most out of the life I was given.
“I feel this is what I had to do.”
NSF has funded graduate research grants since 1952. More than 70% of fellows complete their doctorate in 11 years, 42 fellows have become Nobel laureates, and more than 450 have become members of the National Academy of Sciences. Applications must generally be submitted in October. For more information, visit the National Science Foundation website.