Goldwater Scholar strives for ‘excellence, innovation’

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A young woman in a red shirt sits in a dark room, with nebulizer equipment around her.
Mia Jastrzembski works in Dr. Sinjae Hyun's lab at Mercer. Photo by Leah Yetter

Mia Jastrzembski was drawn to engineering because of its problem-solving aspect, and family experiences caused her to narrow her focus to the biomedical side of the field. Seeing her grandfather’s battle with cancer inspired her to pursue a career where she could uncover medical solutions and improve patient outcomes.

The sophomore is one of two Mercer University students chosen this year to receive the prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, which recognizes undergraduates in science, mathematics and engineering. Junior Sarah Boyer, a biochemistry and molecular biology major, is the University’s other Goldwater Scholar.

Jastrzembski, a Marietta resident, said she fell in love with the size and atmosphere of Mercer’s Macon campus when she visited, and a Stamps Scholarship made it possible for her to attend. She is also a Tift Scholar. 

Since last summer, she has worked in the lab of Dr. Sinjae Hyun, professor and chair of biomedical engineering. The team has been looking at what kind of particles are produced by nebulizers and where those particles deposit in the lungs, Jastrzembski said. She and her teammates presented their research at the Biomedical Engineering Society Conference in the fall.

Nebulizers are a common treatment for patients with respiratory diseases and asthma, but the aerosols generated from these devices vary, Dr. Hyun said. The hope is that these research findings can be used to recommend more appropriate nebulizers for patients with specific respiratory diseases.

“Throughout her academic journey, she has consistently exhibited a unique blend of dedication, conscientiousness and intellectual curiosity,” Dr. Hyun said. “Her passion for biomedical engineering is substantial not only in her academic accomplishments but also in her persistent efforts towards research endeavors. Mia faces challenges while aiming for excellence and innovation.

“I have full confidence that she will continue to make substantial contributions to the field in the years ahead, serving as a leader and inspiration to others in biomedical engineering fields.”

Mia Jastrzembski. Photo by Leah Yetter

Jastrzembski is dedicated, collaborative and persistent in her work, and she has demonstrated academic excellence and achievement through both her research and community service, Dr. Hyun said.

She participated in the 2023 Mercer On Mission trip to South Korea and is a member of the University’s Engineering Honors Program. She has volunteered twice with the Go Baby Go program, in which battery-operated toy cars are modified to meet the needs of children with limited mobility. Jastrzembski said she has enjoyed being able to use the skills she learned in the classroom to impact the lives of others.

“My favorite part of Mercer thus far is all the people I have met,” she said. “I have gotten to work with incredibly intelligent professors who push me to give my best, and I have the most wonderful group of friends who remind me to have fun and that my identity isn’t simply academics.”

Just a few weeks prior to learning of her Goldwater win, Jastrzembski was selected for the Amgen Scholars undergraduate summer research program. She will spend 10 weeks conducting research at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Jastrzembski said she hasn’t learned many details yet of her assignment, but she hopes to have the chance to do biotechnology or disease-related research. 

“Duke has a really great biomedical engineering department, and I researched a lot of their professors that are doing cancer and disease-related research. I thought it would be amazing and cool to be a part of that,” she said of why she wanted to work with Duke for the program. 

Now a Goldwater Scholar as well, she hopes the recognition will provide her with more connections and opportunities in the future. 

“It’s very prestigious, and I think it will open the doors to allowing me to do the research that I really want to do,” she said. “It feels awesome to see all this hard work that I put in and that people have put into me paying off. I’m really excited to see where it takes me.”

After completing her undergraduate degree, Jastrzembski hopes to work toward a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering. She wants to have a career in research and possibly become a university professor.

“I want to keep moving forward, getting better and inspire the new engineers who have come in to strive for their dreams and what they’re passionate about,” she said. 

A male professor and a female student stand in a lab and look at a clipboard together.
Dr. Sinjae Hyun talks with student Mia Jastrzembski in his lab. Photo by Leah Yetter

 

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