University of Arizona
Much of my childhood was a nomadic experience. Born and raised in Bosnia and Herzegovina until the age of 6, my family and I emigrated to Germany to escape the tensions of war. Four years later, having explored much of Europe, we decided to move to Arizona, a place I could finally call home.
Achieving a higher education has been my dream since an early age, so attending the University of Arizona was a natural thing to do. Choosing a major was more difficult. I eventually decided on biochemistry and molecular biophysics. At the University of Arizona, my research focuses on muscular dystrophy, a disease that gradually deteriorates skeletal muscle cells, leading to the eventual death of the cells and the surrounding tissue. Specifically, I study the calpain family of proteins, which are calcium-dependent proteases, and, together with the calcium-dependent specific calpain inhibitor, calpastatin, are widely distributed in eukaryotic cells. I have immersed myself in my research by attending scientific conferences, joining professional organizations and participating in clinical research studies. I will be presenting the results of my research at the 2010 American Chemical Society conference.
On campus, I am heavily involved in several student organizations and activities, such as the Peer Mentorship Program, the Student Members of the American Chemical Society-Undergraduate Affiliate Network Biochemistry organization, and, most notably, the first annual Biological, Engineering and Chemical Undergraduate Research Conference for the Southwest region. The latter stands out, because I and several other undergraduates built this conference from the ground up— designing the Web site, recruiting students, raising thousands of dollars and performing myriad other tasks. This was a chance to leave a lasting tradition at the University of Arizona, and it would not have been possible without the support of the Undergraduate Affiliate Network and ASBMB.
Outside of school, I have been volunteering as a hospice companion since 2007, and, in the summer of 2008, I provided aid at a small, rural hospital in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I also have worked with refugee resettlement agencies locally to assist incoming families through English tutoring, finding suitable housing and employment and providing them with general support. The culmination of these experiences over the past four years has led me to realize that, for me, an ideal career must be a combination of medicine, research and community involvement. Having spent the past four years at the University of Arizona, I could not have asked for a better experience.