Hometown: Milford, Connecticut
WCSU Degree: Bachelor of Arts in Biology - Bioscience Concentration
Activities: Resident Assistant for three years, Adventure Club member, Honors Program member, participation in Compassion and Creativity club and WCSU Ministries. Internships: Dr. Neeta Connally since the summer before my junior year, into the fall of my senior year, researching ticks. Participated in an NSF-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates program in Puerto Rico, researching white rot fungi. This semester, I did an SIS with Dr. Rachel Prunier, researching outcrossing rates in Protea. Also collaborated with Dr. Mitch Wagener, and was one of a group of students who presented during his Climate Change lecture series. Also worked with Dr. Tom Philbrick and Prof. Jack Tom to create a scientific illustration class. This summer, I will participate in my second Research Experience for Undergraduates, researching Red-Eyed Tree Frogs with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama.
Honors and Awards: As a freshman, while still exploring creative writing as a potential major, was one of the 10 finalists in WestConn's Playwriting Festival and had her play performed on stage by the Theatre Department. Received an award at Western Research Day for poster presentation on the effectiveness of various tick-bite prevention methods in household pets. Has maintained 3.80 GPA and Dean's List every semester. Received Housing and Residence Life Staff Member of the Year award, for the 2014-15 academic year. Was chosen to present research at the SACNAS conference in Washington D.C. in October.
According to Karina Escobar, "To be completely honest, I wasn't planning to go to a school in Connecticut at all, but my parents urged me to apply to at least one CSU school. I chose Western Connecticut because it was the only one that had a creative writing program at the time. Then I was offered the opportunity to be included in the WCSU Honors Program. I came to visit and was blown away by the enthusiasm of the students I met as well Dr. Chris Kukk's dedication to the program and all the opportunities for leadership that are available."
Escobar enrolled at Western intending to pursue a writing degree, but came away, instead, with a degree in biology with a minor in sociology. "While writing is my first and biggest passion, I have always liked being outdoors, and biology has really enlightened me as to how nature operates. The more I learn about the intricate, dynamic way our world and its organisms are put together, the more I want to keep discovering. For a while, I was very much on the fence between biology and sociology/anthropology, but now I realize there are so many ways to incorporate sociology into biological research. People are very much dependent on nature and all that it provides. I can see myself studying interactions between humans and the environment in the future, especially in a time where anthropogenic climate change is drastically altering how these interactions play out."
Escobar says there are many "amazing, giving people in the WCSU community. So many faculty members have given me their time and advice, as well as new career-building experiences that I couldn't have done without them. My department adviser, Dr. Philbrick, helped me explore my interest in scientific illustration by helping me organize my first SIS. I am currently working with Dr. Prunier in her lab, and am encouraged daily by her knowledge and the thrill of participating in her research. Also, Dr. Wagener gave me the opportunity to practice public speaking and scientific communication during his Climate Change lecture series, and it was such a fulfilling experience. But, Dr. Connally especially took me under her wing when she gave me my first opportunity to participate in research here. I spent a summer collecting ticks for her and also stopped by her office just to talk about life on many occasions. I've always been so thankful for her encouragement as well as her advice and I feel that the experience I had in her lab gave me one of my first glimpses of biology at work, and that glimpse gave me such momentum."
Asked what she will remember most about her Western experience, Escobar says, "I am a part of Western's Adventure Club and our trip to Guatemala last May will be forever engraved in my memory. Our club adviser is Pano Koukopoulos, who is an absolute inspiration. He, a few other students and I hiked the tallest volcano in Central America together. It was one of the toughest things I have ever done, but it was also one of the most rewarding. The people I went with were amazing, the country was beautiful and I will never forget it."
Escobar says for the past few years, she's been dreaming of joining the Peace Corps. "Whether this will happen before, after or during graduate school is still a question that needs answering," she says. "Whichever order it happens in, though, I cannot wait. Also, I can see myself going for a Ph.D. and becoming a professor one day."
Escobar’s advice to new students entering WCSU is: "Get involved! I spent three of my years here as a Resident Assistant to freshman students. Some of them get involved, and some of them don't, but the ones who do are the ones that I see climbing the ranks, getting internships and creating opportunities for themselves. It is so much harder to do this without a network, and going to Clubs Carnival or going to a program in your hall is the first step to creating one. Find an organization you love, and run with it!"