ASU grad seeks to be a future change maker


December 6, 2019

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2019 commencement.

When New Mexico native and Barrett, The Honors College undergraduate Katja Klosterman enrolled at Arizona State University three years ago she wasn’t so sure she had made the right choice. School of Molecular Sciences undergraduate Katja Klosterman. Download Full Image

In high school, Klosterman took AP chemistry during her sophomore year and remembered absolutely hating it because she just could not understand it. She remembers wanting to understand everything about chemistry, and specifically the chemistry of human life, but being so frustrated that she just could not get it. Out of spite she chose biochemistry as her major when she enrolled at ASU, trying to prove to herself that she could understand it if she really applied herself.

Klosterman was accepted into the Next Generation Service Corps (NGSC) program, a first of its kind, four-year leadership development program that trains students from all majors to address these challenges. Students develop interdisciplinary networks and experience firsthand how collaboration among the public, private, nonprofit and military sectors can create meaningful change locally and globally. Through the Next Generation Service Corps program Klosterman received a scholarship towards her tuition.

While this is not a degree program, the NGSC provides a critical and marketable skillset that allows students to become transformational leaders in their fields and beyond.

“Through ASU, I was able to immerse myself in many different experiences that I don’t think I could have gotten any place else,” Klosterman said. “Participating in this leadership development program, I learned the skills needed to face complex challenges that affect the world through a cross-sector, collaborative viewpoint, which I think will translate well into my future career in medicine.”

Prior to taking chemistry with Professor Ian Gould, Klosterman said she always found herself questioning her abilities in chemistry, and often thought that she wasn’t good enough to succeed. In Gould’s class he taught her that with enough hard work, and some guidance, anything is possible.

“Katja was a wonderful student in my class, full of energy and full of questions,” said Gould, President's Professor in the School of Molecular Sciences. “She is going to make ASU look good!”

During her time here, Klosterman took advantage of the opportunities ASU offered and immersed herself in student life. A few of the activities she became a part of include clinical research at the Mayo Clinic Translational Neuroscience and Aging Laboratory, publishing a research paper in Scientific Reports, and was part of several student leadership organizations including co-founding Devils Spark Change at ASU, training students to become catalysts for change through interactive and inclusive alternative break trips during fall breaks and spring breaks through volunteering across different communities.

“ASU made me realize that it is not about the grades you had or things you did during your time there, but it’s about the memories you made and the lives you touched while you were there,” said Klosterman, who will be earning a Bachelor’s of Science in biochemistry and a certificate in cross-sector leadership in December 2019.

Question: How has your scholarship impacted your education at ASU?

Answer: The Next Generation Service Corps Scholarship allowed me to get the education that I got at ASU. Without this scholarship, I would have never been able to afford to come to a school with as many opportunities at ASU. I can honestly say that the NGSC changed the entire course of my life by taking a chance on me and allowing me to pursue an education here at ASU. There are so many complex health disparities around the world, and I hope that one day I am a future change maker in them.

Q: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in? 

A: I learned my love for chemistry during organic chemistry, and that love grew as I entered into biochemistry and physical chemistry my junior year.  These classes, in combination with other research experiences, really made me realize that I chose correctly as I was constantly wanting to know more. I think that’s a good sign you’re in the right field.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you; that changed your perspective?

A: During my time at ASU, I learned how to be compassionate. I think it’s really easy for us to become so bogged down by every exam and assignment due, especially when we’ve got high expectations for ourselves. It’s easy to become so absorbed into this idea that your grades depict your worth. I used to believe this for so long, until one day I was walking back from a physical chemistry exam that I was sure ruined my grade, until I just looked up and realized how many people were around me — and how many people also could have felt like this. ASU has so many passionate people, that it always calmed me to be surrounded by all these other students with different life experiences. It really reestablished to me that you never know what someone is going through, or where they are coming from. ASU made me realize that it is not about the grades you had or things you did during your time there, but it’s about the memories you made and the lives you touched while you were there. Just be kind to others.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: Growing up in the same place my entire life, I really needed a change of pace and scenery to challenge myself to grow throughout college. I had the opportunity to come to ASU through the Next Generation Service Corps, and I am so grateful for this opportunity. I never quite understood the opportunities that ASU could generate, but after spending three years here, I am confident I made the right decision. ASU is full of passionate individuals that will inspire you to keep challenging yourself.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Dr. Gould. His class honestly changed my life. It made me gain confidence in my abilities that allowed me to do the things that I’ve always wanted to do. His passion for teaching was inspirational, and for a while it made me consider if I wanted to become a professor so that I could become a professor as passionate as him.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Try to go out of your comfort zone at least once a day. I know it can get scary to do things that make you uncomfortable, but that’s the only way for growth, and eventually the things that used to make you uncomfortable will no longer make you uncomfortable. Whether it be raising your hand to ask a question in front of the entire class, or applying for a job that you think is out of your league, you’d be surprised how much you grow by just doing things.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: When it’s colder outside, I loved sitting outside on the balcony of the Student Pavilion, but I also love the open space design of Armstrong Hall.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I plan on working at Los Alamos National Laboratory researching a rapid and affordable diagnostic tool for bacterial infections that can be utilized in countries around the world. In June, I will be applying to medical schools to pursue an MD.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: That’s difficult. I’d say access to clean water. Clean water is a necessity and is fundamental to life and escaping the cycle of poverty. I wish $40 million was enough for that, but I think we could find a way to use that money as a catalyst to inspire others to give towards clean water, creating an endless cycle of giving.

Alumni and Special Events Coordinator, School of Earth & Space Exploration

480-727-4662

Online biochemistry undergraduate finds academic home at ASU


December 6, 2019

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2019 commencement.

Arizona State University online biochemistry student and full-time mom Kassandra Herndon is reaching her goal of earning a Bachelor’s of Science in biochemistry. Kassandra Herndon SMS undergraduate Kassandra Herndon Download Full Image

The wife and mother of a young daughter had earned two associate degrees in her home state of California, but wanted more for herself and wanted to be a good role model for her daughter. Majoring in biology, Herndon wanted an online program that allowed her some flexibility. When she discovered ASU had what she was looking for, she could hardly believe what she was seeing on her computer screen.

Herndon thought, “This can’t be true. There is no way there is a biology degree online.” She requested information and spoke to an adviser and was told she would be a good fit for the program. And in a leap of faith Herndon enrolled for the spring 2018 semester at ASU.

Herndon originally started as a biology major but switched to biochemistry when she became infatuated with the chemical structures and how each structure acted a specific way. It made her want to increase her knowledge on how chemical properties worked within the human body.

“Kassandra was a delight to teach, she was serious and enthusiastic to learn while at the same time working to support herself and her family. Kassandra took full advantage of the online degree program and is a fantastic example of why the online program is so important,” said Ian Gould, President's Professor in the School of Molecular Sciences. “I am proud of Kassandra, she will do good things with her degree!”

Being an online student, a wife and mom can be demanding and you have many things to juggle like household chores, caring for your child and class work, but Herndon says the key is time management and a good support system.

“It’s definitely doable, and it takes time and patience and a lot of scheduling,” she said.

Herndon will be graduating in December and is traveling to the Tempe campus to take part in the graduation ceremonies. She is excited as well for the graduation experience of being in a big stadium and walking across the stage to receive her degree in front of her daughter, husband and family. Herndon shared that while it was challenging at times to balance everything, this big milestone in her life — completing her degree makes all the sacrifices to get here worth it.

“Having my support team there (at graduation) to see everything that I have done — all of the late nights and early mornings, the hour at Thanksgiving with them, has paid off,” Herndon said. “And seeing my professors will be a highlight.”

Herndon answered some questions about her time and experience at ASU.

Question: What was your favorite class and why?

Answer: Organic chemistry was my favorite. The class is great itself — to learn about different chemicals in the whole wide world and how those chemicals play a role in your body when you get into higher level classes. That’s something I learned in O chem and here it is again, it's great to see that. O chem is the center of really everything in life.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you; that changed your perspective?

A: One thing I learned was to believe in myself. My past struggles are not who I am. ASU has made me feel like I can accomplish anything.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: Allowing a mother to go back to school and finish her degree is one of the best innovations ASU could have ever made possible. ASU is renowned for setting the bar and I am thankful I chose ASU.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Dr. Ara Austin by far. She truly believes in your ability to succeed not only in the classroom but in your future endeavors. Dr. Austin's guidance through the program is truly unimaginable.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Continue to jump those hurdles until you win your race. It may be a triathlon but receiving your medal at the end will bring you great joy.

Q: What advice would you give to those who do not want to dive right in to an online degree or course because they are simply afraid of the time commitment or they are afraid they might not be able to do it?

A: To be able to make something for yourself that will help your family is the biggest leap of faith you can honestly do. So either going to school or going back to school with a family would really be one of the best assets you can provide for your family. Just for the brighter future, for the outcome that will occur — it will outweigh all your fears, all your negativity, all your worries. You can do it, just have faith you can complete it. Definitely talk to your advisers and your professors. They are always there to help you. To do something for yourself — going back to school is a great option. Not only does it help your family but it really helps you as a person be who you were meant to be in life. It helps you push further and past all those hurdles you may have. Go and do it! You make something better for yourself and your family.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus while you were here in the summer, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: Outside of the lab, it had to be the University Club. The history and view of this building amazes me.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I plan to start a career in protein synthesis, while working on a master's in genetics counseling.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: If I were given $40 million dollars, I would tackle cancer. I would implement new ideas and ways to reduce cancer within the body. To create a world without cancer would touch more than my life. It would touch millions of lives. 

Alumni and Special Events Coordinator, School of Earth & Space Exploration

480-727-4662