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Lives of Significance

Veronica Balick, C’20

Laser Focused on Service Through Cancer Research

There are very few places other than the Mount where science undergraduates can have such amazing classroom and research experiences.

balick-veronica

As an incoming freshman, Veronica Balick, C’20, knew that she wanted to study science and eventually go to graduate school in pursuit of her interest in cell and molecular biology. A biochemistry major with a mathematics major, she quickly began gaining experiential laboratory research experience the summer after her freshman year at a biotechnology company.

By the time she completed an internship in an immunology lab at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital the summer after her sophomore year and did work in the lab of School of Natural Science and Mathematics Dean Christine McCauslin, Ph.D., she had decided that she could best serve God and the community through cancer research. She hopes to keep this mindset throughout all future endeavors.

In addition to seeking a university that would provide a strong education in the sciences, Balick required an institution that would promote Catholic values and where she could grow in her faith. She was familiar with the Mount from her family’s annual visits to the National Shrine Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes. “When I visited campus, I felt like I was home,” she recalls. “The faculty and students were so welcoming, and I knew that the Core Curriculum and Campus Ministry would help me grow in my faith. The sciences majors were very well organized, and the Mount had so many opportunities for students in science majors.”

Balick continued her enriching experiential summertime activities in advance of her senior year by completing a competitive summertime internship at the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research. These experiences, plus Balick’s excellent academic record, resulted in her receipt of a 2019-20 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and 2020-21 US-UK Fulbright Scholar.

After graduating from the Mount, Balick spent a year studying antibody and vaccine cancer therapies and exploring the immunology of the tumor interface as a Fulbright Scholar. By the summer of 2021, she had earned an MSc in cancer immunology and biotechnology from the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom. Now she is continuing her studies in the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at George Washington University, where she is pursuing a Ph.D. in cancer biology.

As much as Balick values her strong undergraduate education in the sciences, she believes that the philosophical and ethical knowledge she gained at the Mount has made the difference in equipping her to make a difference in her field.

In a recommendation letter for Balick’s Fulbright application, Dean McCauslin expressed her confidence in her student’s future success. “As an academic scientist who has mentored many students over the years, I am thrilled to work with a student of Ms. Balick’s caliber, and I am confident that she will make significant and valuable contributions to the scientific community and the world at large over her career,” McCauslin writes.

As her future unfolds, Balick will be able to rely on her strengthened faith, the knowledge she gained in her four years in Emmitsburg and the support of the Mount community.