Chemistry major wins Goldwater Scholarship, completes NIH internship

Honors College student and chemistry major Corbin Ester enrolled at Appalachian State University with clear intentions of developing skills as a researcher, and he achieved that with distinction.

The 2015 graduate from Wilkesboro plans to apply to a M.D./Ph.D. program. But his first stop after graduation is a full-time research opportunity at the National Cancer Institute through the Postbaccalaureate Intramural Research Training Award program. This opportunity follows these honors he achieved while at Appalachian: 

  • Interned as part of the Summer 2014 National Institute of Health (NIH) Summer Internship Program at the National Cancer Institute’s Laboratory of Cancer Biology and Genetics
  • Awarded a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship for the 2014-15 academic year, the premier undergraduate award in the fields of mathematics, natural sciences and engineering. He was among 288 recipients selected from 1,167 applicants nationwide for the $7,500 scholarship from the Excellence in Education Foundation.
  • Received an Excellence in Scholastic Achievement Award from the American Chemical Society’s Carolina Piedmont Section

Previously, Ester earned the George T. Barthalmus Undergraduate Research Grant for 2012-13 for his clean energy research with Department of Chemistry faculty mentor Dr. Dale Wheeler, which involved electrocatalysts for hydrogen production. The grant was presented by the State of North Carolina Undergraduate Research and Creativity Symposium (SNCURCS) to sophomores engaging in research. He was the first Appalachian student to win this honor.

At the time, Ester said, “Receiving the grant has boosted my confidence in my capability as a future scientist, and strengthened my desire to seek a life dedicated to research.” He presented findings from his research at the 2013 SNCURCS at UNC Charlotte, the 2013 National Conference for Undergraduate Research and the 2013 American Chemical Society’s National Meeting.

Ester also had the privilege of being the only first-year student to be selected for a 10-week biochemistry program held at the University of Kentucky the summer after his freshman year.

“The success that I have had is tribute to the truly amazing support system I have at this university,” said Ester, who received the university’s prestigious Chancellor’s Scholarship to attend Appalachian.

‘A direct, focused path’

Wheeler said of Ester’s accomplishments, “Corbin has a keen, innate ability to know what to do in the short term to get to his long-term goals. He’s on a direct, focused path. He has the insight to know what he wants, how to get there and then do it.”

In addition to being a Chancellor’s Scholar and member of The Honors College, Ester has served as president of the Health Professions Club, a peer advisor for the Health Professions Advising Office, executive associate editor of IMPULSE - The Premier Undergraduate Neuroscience Journal, and an Honors Vanguard member.

After completing advanced degrees, he plans to pursue a career in pediatric oncology, cancer prevention and translational research, the field of applying lab research to human trials and adopting best practices in the medical community.

About his NIH experience

Ester called his internship this summer at National Institute of Health’s National Cancer Institute “an outstanding experience.”

He assisted Dr. Miriam C. Poirier, head of the Carcinogen-DNA Interactions Section, and learned basic lab and research techniques in molecular epidemiology. He also assisted with the publishing of manuscripts that reported research findings.

“From day one I have been exposed to not only some of the brightest minds in cancer research, but also to the boundless opportunities for interdisciplinary engagement. I have learned much working with Dr. Poirier, who has drawn upon her many years of service with the NIH to impart knowledge of the lab within the context of developing a successful and bountiful career in cancer research,” he said during his internship.

“This experience has further increased my zeal for a future career in both research and medicine, and has proven to be an institution at which I would love to work one day.”

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