My name is Dijana Katic and I am a senior chemistry major with a biochemistry concentration here at Shippensburg University. I have been part of the Wood Honors College since I began my undergraduate education, and it has truly provided me with some of the best opportunities in gaining leadership experience as one of the Mentor Committee Co-Chairs, as well as providing important connections that continue to help me navigate my way towards achieving my goals. I am also the current President of the Chemistry Club and I was the President of the Health Sciences Club during the 2018-2019 academic year. In addition to this, I am a member of Pi Delta Phi, the National French Honor Society, and Phi Sigma Sigma, a sorority that focuses on building leadership and inspiring positive change in the community.
While I have certainly explored my interests and grown as a student through my rigorous chemistry courses and leadership experiences, it would be impossible not to attribute my accomplishments to my upbringing. Growing up, my parents constantly emphasized the importance of education to me and my older brother. We grew up watching our parents rebuild their lives together from literally nothing. My family immigrated to the United States in 1996 seeking refuge from their war-torn country Bosnia. Seeing my parents overcome every imaginable adversity with the utmost diligence and resilience, while also raising two small children, is undoubtedly the greatest example of success that I know. I ultimately owe my best qualities and achievements to my parents for their constant inspiration and examples of character. Their story has always been a source of motivation for me. I continuously strive to be as hard-working and dedicated as they prove to be every single day.
I grew up in Shippensburg, and while I thought I was ready to finally leave and move to a big city for college after graduation, my mom encouraged me to at least attend one of the open houses here before making this big step, just to see what Ship had to offer. I was extremely hesitant, but this day really changed everything. I met Dr. McCann and Dr. Shane, both chemistry professors, along with several chemistry majors at the time. Unlike what I expected, it truly felt like home. The faculty and students were all very open, inviting, and enthusiastic, and I knew from that day forward that I was going to have to stay in Shippensburg at least another 4 years before leaving. I can honestly say that choosing Ship was one of the best decisions I could have ever made. While all of the chemistry faculty has been instrumental in my progression, Dr. McCann has been one of the most inspiring to me. She has been a constant source of advice and encouragement. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent in her office, and she has always been there for me every step of the way.
Having consistent support from all of the chemistry faculty as well as scholarship support from generous donors truly makes everything possible for me. It might not be easy to see just how much your contributions change students’ lives, but I can assure you that it certainly does. Although I have direct support from my family and professors, having that support from my donors is like a silent reminder to keep working hard and making the most out of my resources and my time here.
One of the outcomes from my scholarship support is that I was able to conduct independent undergraduate research for almost two years within the chemistry department, which is almost unheard of at larger institutions. The generous gift from my donors gave me the opportunity to learn hands-on alongside my research advisor, Dr. Alexander Spore. I continued his work in studying a relatively new class of crystalline materials called Metal-Organic Frameworks. Some skills I learned through this experience involved synthesis and the use of various instrumentation available in the chemistry department such as infrared spectroscopy, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, and scanning electron microscopy, to study how the crystals behaved in various conditions. I also learned how to work more independently, optimize the quality of my work, and ask important scientific questions. I was fortunate enough to present my research at the American Chemical Society National Meeting and Exposition in New Orleans in March of 2018.
I also studied abroad the summer after my freshman year. I traveled to Northern France, where I stayed with a host family for about 2 weeks and spent the next 2 weeks in Paris. The class had a more cultural approach, so we learned about the history, architecture, and people living in each city we visited. We also had to focus on one aspect of French culture and analyze this through a final research paper. My research focused on the eco-friendly aspects of the French culture and how they compare to that in the United States. This was a unique and immersive learning experience that gave me an invaluable perspective on world issues and cultural diversity. It was also a great opportunity for me to further develop my French speaking with my host family, locals, and other students.
In addition to this, I was the first freshman student to be accepted into the Summit Health Pre-Med Summer Work Experience Program. This program focused on providing students the opportunity to shadow a variety of healthcare providers in a wide array of specialties. I was able to observe in departments, such as emergency medicine, family medicine, palliative care, orthopedics, dermatology, and radiology. Through this program, many of my previous views of medicine were challenged. It proved to be far from the glamorized view that many people have of medicine. Being able to see a wide range of personalities, hear patients’ stories, and see how each person faced their adversities was an overwhelming, yet rewarding exposure that helped me truly realize what I am ultimately working toward. After graduation, I plan to apply my knowledge and qualities that I’ve gained through all of my experiences at Shippensburg University to attend Physician Assistant school.
My story, along with other students’ stories, is a unique one, but I hope it helps you understand just how much your contribution plays a role. Although I am graduating in the spring and leaving Shippensburg soon after, I will always remember where I came from and who helped me along the way. My family, professors, scholarship donors, and Shippensburg University as a whole, will always be an inspiration to me. I hope that one day I can give back and help students, knowing how meaningful that contribution can be.
(Dijana, Class of 2020, gave these remarks at the SU Foundation’s 2019 President’s Recognition Dinner)