Biology major wants to one day “engage with students through teaching and mentorship”
By Shannon Sigafoos
Going through the application process for the Barry Goldwater Scholarship has helped Samantha Greenberg ’24 develop a much clearer road map for her future.
The Howell, N.J., native and biology major is one of three Lafayette students awarded the extremely competitive scholarship this year. Greenberg and her peers Carter Brand ’25 and Anna DiFelice ’24 are among the 413 scholars selected from an estimated pool of over 1,267 nominees from 427 academic institutions across the country.
The junior has been conducting research on campus since the summer leading into her sophomore year, as part of the Integrative and Translational Laboratory for Applied Biology (IT LAB) overseen by Khadijah Mitchell, assistant professor of biology and Peter C.S. D’Aubermont, M.D. ’73 Scholar of Health and Life Sciences. Her research in the IT LAB has focused on studying two subtypes of kidney cancer with different survival rates and biomolecular signatures (e.g., DNA sequence, DNA copy number, RNA, protein, etc.) to better understand and combat racial survival disparities.
Last summer, Greenberg successfully applied for the Opportunities in Genomics Research Program at the McDonnell Genome Institute at Washington University in St. Louis. There, under the mentorship of Dr. Carlos Cruchaga, she was able to work with data that helped her to better understand differently expressed genes in subtypes of Alzheimer’s, which could help develop new, precise treatment strategies.
“While my research experiences have been broad in the types of disease models I’ve worked in, I’ve recently become particularly interested in how chronic pain can be treated as a disease in itself,” Greenberg shares. “Therefore, for my Goldwater research essay, I proposed a novel way to study the genomics, transcriptomics, and pathways involved in subtypes of chronic pain in diverse populations to understand how we can again develop precise treatment strategies for this chronic disease.”
Greenberg credits Mitchell–whom she texted as soon as she found out she was a Goldwater awardee–for providing her with unwavering support in crafting her initial Goldwater application and says that it was during this period that she began to think a lot more about her specific career and research goals. This summer, she will gain further wet lab experience in PCR and RNA sequencing at Roche Diagnostics in Pleasanton, Calif. Next year, she will complete an honors thesis focusing on understanding the genomic underpinnings and pathways involved in stroke. Finally, Greenberg plans to pursue a Ph.D. in human genetics.
“Samantha is amazing. On track for a vibrant and productive research career, I was particularly impressed by her decision to develop an original research proposal for the Research Essay portion of the Goldwater application. Normally, this is seen as a risky approach to the essay, as most applicants will expand upon their ongoing, largely mentored, research,” says Julia Goldberg, associate dean of advising and co-curricular programs at Lafayette. “According to Samantha, she wanted to develop a proposal that reflected her interests in developing alternative, if not novel approaches to chronic pain–a topic she would like to pursue in graduate school.”
Greenberg’s research and numerous Lafayette activities and endeavors–including acting as a program coordinator for America Reads, a mentorship coordinator for LafKid Connect, a high school mentor through Big Brothers Big Sisters, chair of the Biology Department’s Inclusion Committee peer mentorship program, and treasurer for Lafayette’s gender-inclusive service fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega–have led to her planning to combine her “passions for research, teaching, and service as a future professor of biology.”
“I plan to eventually teach at a smaller undergraduate institution like Lafayette where I can more easily engage with students through teaching and mentorship,” she shares. “Strong mentors throughout my high school and college careers, and especially Dr. Mitchell, have all inspired me toward a mission of helping others along their scientific journeys.”