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CAS student interest in science leads to scholarship

TAMPA, Fla.- It started in high school when University of South Florida student Christie Campla became interested in biology.

Her desire for research has earned the fifth-year senior many scholarships such as USF Holcombe First Generation in College, USF Honors College Discovery Research, Barry M. Goldwater and now, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Oxford Cambridge scholarship.

Campla said she describes the scholarship as her dream program.

“It was sort of a reach for me,” she said. “I wasn’t thinking I actually was going to get it. I applied and when I got the interview, that’s when I was like ‘wow this actually happening.’ It’s not going to sink in until I go over there and start.”

Campla will be one of 20 students selected working on a collaborative Ph.D. project in bioengineering with two research mentors; one at NIH in Bethesda, Md., and another at either Oxford University or Cambridge University in the United Kingdom.

When Campla came to USF, the St. Petersburg native decided to study cellular and molecular biology with a minor in Spanish.

That changed during her junior year when she decided to declare Spanish as another major.

“I’m actually half Chilean,” she said. “My dad immigrated here from Chile. I wasn’t raised with him though, so I didn’t learn Spanish growing up, and I always wanted to learn it. I was minoring in Spanish while doing my biology major, but I liked it and it was a few more extra classes to do a double major.”

At first, Campla was interested in medicine and was part of the seven-year medical program at USF, but when she started doing research, her interest changed and she withdrew from the program.

After taking a couple chemistry classes, Campla became interested in the field and decided to declare it as her minor.

“It was almost the same thing,” she said. “There was a couple of classes I wanted to take as electives and it counted for chemistry and I needed to one extra class to get a minor.”

After her junior year, Campla was one of 10 international students selected for the Summer Training Fellowship at the National Cancer Research Center in Madrid, Spain where did research on pancreatic cancer.

She describes the work atmosphere as different.

“It was great,” she said. “The atmosphere of the institute and the country as a whole was very laid-back. I speak Spanish and I got to interact with a lot there. I lived right in the center of the city. So it was good experience both scientifically and for my career as well as personally.”

With prior experience in research, Campla received an email from Linda Lucas, director of the Office of National Scholarship, referring her to the Oxford Cambridge scholarship in November. She decided to research the program, applied for it and submitted her application in January.

Campla received a phone call from the program a couple weeks later for interviews, which she describes as daunting.

With only 20 spots available to approximately 60 finalists who showed up for the interview process, Campla said the experience was intimidating, because each candidate participated in an interview with a panel of five or six faculty members in the room.

The following day, Campla received a phone call from the program, informing her that she had been selected, which surprised her.

Now, the senior is in the process of renewing her passport, earning her work visa and moving to another country.

She intends to become a research scientist in the field of bioengineering and lead her own lab and research team as well as teach at a university level after completing a Ph.D. and postdoctoral fellowship to prepare for a career in applied biomedical research.


Filed under:Arts and Sciences Cell Biology, Microbiology and Molecular Biology    
Author: Marc Seide