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CRISSP ID cards for Connor and Matasich

Biology and liberal arts students complete research at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

17 August 2021
Lindsay Matasich headshot
Lindsay Matasich. Image provided.

After observing language barriers between patients and medical staff while volunteering at various hospitals, senior Lindsay Matasich accelerated what was once a Spanish minor into a second major, accompanying her preexisting biology major.

“That was really upsetting to me to see these patients who were going through something so difficult,” Matasich, a Braddock Scholar through the Eberly College of Science, said. “They already had cancer, and they can't communicate with their doctors, they can't communicate with their nurses. That's when I decided to change my minor to a major because I felt like I would get a lot more out of it during my time there and hopefully be able to bridge that language gap a little bit.”

Matasich as well as her peer Chloe Connor spent the summer utilizing their unique combination of studying both STEM and the liberal arts as part of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute Summer Scholars Program, or CRISSP.

Chloe Connor
Chloe Connor. Image provided.

Connor, a senior Paterno Fellow and Schreyer Scholar majoring in psychology with minors in biology, bioethics and medical humanities and global health, has always been interested in how social science intersects with STEM, thus leading her to pursuing the “best of both worlds” with psychology.

“I really liked how (the College of the Liberal Arts) set up psychology within Penn State, which drew me to come to Penn State,” Connor said. “I liked the flexibility of the degree and the vast amount of course offerings for psychology that other programs just don't have.”

After weighing her options of various summer research programs, Matasich was interested in CRISSP due to its research opportunity in cystic fibrosis — her uncle has cystic fibrosis, which strengthened her drive to work on this research. And, her general interest in pediatrics drew her to CHOP’s program.

“I've seen the impact (cystic fibrosis) has on a patient,” Matasich said. “I've seen the impact it has on a family.”

Moreover, Connor is working in the eating disorder assessment and treatment lab, which combines neurocognitive research and psychosocial research — and thus her interests in bioethics, medicine and psychology.

Throughout the summer, Matasich and Connor have pursued a hands-on experience: Their weeks range from a variety of activities including attending seminars, shadowing physicians and collecting and analyzing data.

“The days typically tend to be a lot different because there's programming we're doing within our own research lab. But then there's larger programming we're doing through the CRISSP internship, since everybody's placed in a different research lab,” Connor said. “There's a lot of different roles you have as a CRISSP intern … Every day is different, but it's all really interesting.”

Yet throughout their varied schedules, both Connor and Matasich frequently draw lessons from their liberal arts classes — from research skills to writing to tackling reading scientific literature.

After completing their undergrad, the students both plan to take a gap year before pursuing higher education — Connor, a dual juris doctor/master of public health degree; Matasich, medical school, with an end goal of becoming a physician.

“I'm really interested in health policy and public health practices and trying to bring evidence-based practices from the bench [and] other research tables to the clinic,” Connor said.

As a current student in a research program, Connor encouraged getting involved in research and other opportunities offered by the College of the Liberal Arts, like the Liberal Arts Alumni Mentor Program.

Matasich emphasized the importance of not being the person “to say no to yourself.”

“I feel like it's important to put yourself out there and always take that chance and apply to the program you think you might not get accepted to,” she said. “Because otherwise, you're not even giving someone else the opportunity to say no to you — you're discounting yourself from the start … It's really important to take opportunities as they come, and sometimes take those risks because they can pay off.”