By Stella Katsipoutis-Varkanis

When Natasha “Tash” Miner ’22 found out that University of Virginia’s (UVA) Summer Research Internship Program—into which she was accepted for summer 2020—was postponed until 2021 due to COVID-19, the student-athlete and aspiring physician turned hardship into opportunity. Rather than letting the summer go to waste, she poured her energy into worthy causes: volunteering with Meals on Wheels, tutoring, working in a retirement community, and volunteering at a hospital. 

Tash Miner smiles

Tash Miner

“Although I was very disappointed about the postponement, I have been able to see the silver lining,” Miner says. “I am glad I was able to immerse myself in these clinical experiences, which have reignited my desire to care for people in my future career as a physician.” 

Miner, who plans to attend medical school and continue conducting medical research post-graduation, says she remembers specific moments during her service that reaffirmed her lifelong dream of becoming a doctor—one in particular being her decision to continue her Meals on Wheels route despite a severe weather forecast. 

“That was one of the most rewarding moments for me because, even though I was completely soaked by the rain by the end of my route, I had the satisfaction of knowing I had helped relieve food insecurity for people in my community,” she says. “The gratitude I received from each of the clients I visited that day and had come to know meant the world to me. I realized I truly wanted to be able to care for and help others in my future career, no matter the obstacles in my way.”

When the in-person internship experience commences next summer, Miner will be conducting cancer research under the guidance of a UVA faculty member. She explains that the opportunity will help her expand her research experience; further develop her critical thinking, collaboration, and presentation skills; and build even more relationships with professionals in the field—all of which will be invaluable for her career. 

“This research opportunity is important because I will be researching at an R1 research university, which has very high research activity, resulting in a wider variety of labs and facilities available,” she says. “I think exposing oneself to new and unique opportunities is so important for character development, and I feel so grateful that I am able to pursue such amazing research opportunities before I graduate.”

Miner emphasizes, however, that the educational opportunities she was afforded at Lafayette were what allowed her to be a competitive applicant and land a spot in UVA’s internship program.

“Lafayette has played an immense role in my academic and character development, for which I will be forever grateful,” she says. “Professors like my research mentor, [Chip Nataro, Marshall R. Metzgar Professor of Chemistry and acting head of the Department of Chemistry], give me the confidence to pursue new, exciting, and challenging opportunities. Dr. Nataro has been the best mentor I could’ve asked for, and the confidence he has in me motivates me to pursue the best version of myself.”

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Categorized in: Academic News, Biochemistry, COVID-19 News, Innovation and Research, News and Features, STEM, Students