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Joyce Kim ’24 named Barry Goldwater Scholar

Joyce Kim ’24, a Claremont McKenna College biochemistry major, has been awarded the prestigious Barry Goldwater Scholarship, the highest governmental honor for undergraduate STEM researchers.

Kim was recognized for her advanced work with scientists at the City of Hope and with professors of the Keck Science Department at Claremont McKenna, Pitzer, and Scripps Colleges. The Keck Science team discovered a compound that was responsible for antifungal and antibiotic activity in bacterial strains that they isolated from ants. The finding was published in February in the peer-reviewed journal, Applied & Environmental Microbiology.

“I’m excited for the future and extremely appreciative of the experiences I have had inside and outside of Claremont McKenna that have shaped my love for research,” Kim said. “The Goldwater Scholarship will help me and my family with tuition and my future research plans. I am especially excited for the opportunities that the Goldwater Scholarship will grant me as I continue my journey as an undergraduate student at CMC and beyond.”

Kim ultimately hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in biochemistry focusing on cancer drug research.

“In her quest to have an impact on a devastating disease through the power of leading research, Joyce exemplifies the ambitious achievements of so many CMC students,” said Claremont McKenna President Hiram E. Chodosh. “We are so proud of her and the Goldwater Foundation’s recognition of her promising, groundbreaking work.”

Kim is one of 413 students named a 2023 Goldwater Scholar out of more than 5,000 students nominated by 427 academic institutions in the United States, according to the Barry Goldwater Scholarship & Excellence in Education Foundation.

The scholarship is designed to encourage research careers in the natural sciences, engineering, and mathematics.

“This is such a well-deserved honor for Joyce,” said CMC Prof. Ethan Van Arnam, assistant professor of chemistry. “She has led a challenging project in our lab for the last few years and continually amazes me with her curiosity, hard work, and productivity. It’s no exaggeration to say that she has achieved more than most graduate students do in such a short time. I can’t wait to follow her scientific career after CMC!”

A native of Bellingham, Wash., who currently calls Las Vegas, Nev., home, Kim began her research in Van Arnam’s lab the summer after her first year. Her most recent project is working on extracting DNA from several bacterial strains isolated from ants to sequence their entire genome.

“Just last week, I extracted some DNA for the first time,” Kim said. “I will have to fine-tune some things, but hopefully, I will have all the DNA before the end of the school year.”

Kim credits Van Arnam with shaping her into the scientist she is today. “I have gotten so much out of my research with Prof. Van Arnam. I hope to continue to learn from such an amazing mentor and contribute to the expanding knowledge behind the ecological niche that we study.” 

Kim appreciates the interdisciplinary nature of cancer research, which bridges cell biology, chemistry, genetics, and other fields. Working in Van Arnam’s lab also stirred an interest in the field of natural products. “Ideally, I aspire to combine the disciplines of natural product and cancer research to contribute to safer and successful cancer treatment,” she said.

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