A (Biomedical) Ticket to Ireland

Graduating senior Karly Burke wins a George J. Mitchell Scholarship.

Karly Burke graduated this year with a prestigious award and a ticket to Ireland. Burke was among twelve students nationwide to receive the 2006-07 George J. Mitchell Scholarship. The first Kenyon student to win the Mitchell award, Burke will pursue a master's degree in biomedical science at the National University of Ireland in Galway.

A biochemistry major, Burke was an accomplished researcher during her Kenyon career. As a first-year student, she worked with Professor of Chemistry John Lutton on creating a computer-generated molecular model of a serotonin transporter, with the ultimate aim of finding more efficient, precisely targeted antidepressant drugs. After a stint as a Summer Science Scholar, she turned to a project investigating the benefits of dexrazoxane drugs, which help protect the heart from dangerous side effects of an aggressive anticancer medicine, doxorubicin.

She has also done summer research at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, her home state. And last summer she conducted research in a molecular oncology lab as part of a fellowship at Washington University in St. Louis.

In addition, as part of a study-abroad program in Scotland during her junior year, she researched health systems and medical workforces across Europe. In 2004, she received a Goldwater Scholarship, the premier undergraduate scholarship program for students planning careers in the sciences, mathematics, or engineering.

"Biomedical research," Burke says, "offers a chance to combine creativity with a greater understanding of the biological side of life." She is motivated by "the possibilities of science to make a positive difference in the world." Looking ahead to a career path after her studies in Ireland, she is thinking about medical school and public-health work in the nonprofit sector.

Named for former U.S. Senator George J. Mitchell, who played a pivotal role in the Northern Ireland peace process, the Mitchell Scholarship was launched in 1998 to recognize outstanding young Americans who exhibit the highest standards of academic excellence, leadership, and community service. Administered by the U.S.-Ireland Alliance, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., the Mitchell Scholarship program brings future American leaders to the island of Ireland for a year of graduate study at a university in Ireland or Northern Ireland.

Although still relatively new, the Mitchell Scholarships have become a prestigious, intensely competitive fellowship program. There were 236 applicants from 171 colleges and universities for this year's twelve awards.