As a student, Nathaniel Kennedy was used to making big decisions and taking bold steps. When he earned his Purdue degree from the North Central campus of Purdue University Northwest, he already knew how he would spend the coming year.
The La Porte resident earned his baccalaureate degree in biology in May and will soon begin working as an English teacher with the English Program in Korea (EPIK), helping Korean public school teachers improve their English skills.
This is not his first venture into teaching – he tutors English as a Second Language at the Michigan City Public Library.
When Kennedy returns home next year he plans to pursue a graduate degree in business or science and looks forward, he says, to a career that “bridges the public and the sciences and inspires others to pursue leadership, science, education, and meaning in life.”
A love of science
As a student, he enjoyed sharing his love of science. He was a supplemental instructor in biology; he tutored biology, chemistry and math; and he was a human gross anatomy teaching assistant.
He also was a member of Student Government, Tri-Beta Biology Honors Society, Delta Sigma Science Club, Ecology Club, Pre-med Club and the Honors Program. He volunteered to help organize the Women in Science Expo, College of Science Open House, Delta Sigma Science Fair, Delta Sigma Flu Shot Drive, Be The Match National Marrow Donor drive and organized two on-campus voter registration events.
Reaching out to others is an innate part of Kennedy’s personality. “I believe that every interaction between people can have lifelong effects,” he explained. “The idea of hosting a science fair was conceived with the hope that children would find a passion in asking questions and seeking answers. I am honored to play a part, however small, in the academic lives of kids who will one day change the world.”
In fact, he said one of his favorite student memories took place during a science fair the Delta Sigma Club hosted on campus for elementary school students.
“One of the 2015 science fair awards went to a student who worked hard on his project, but I could see that he did not expect to win,” Kennedy described. “As emcee, I had the honor of calling his name and placing the medal around his neck. I have never seen a child look so happy. His excitement reminded me of why we hosted the science fair. I love seeing the kids experiment with science and build their passion for exploration.”
Student research work
“Doing research was the highlight of my time at the North Central Campus,” he recalled. “I believe that real education is done hands-on in the lab.”
In turn, he was thrilled to have the opportunity to present his research at seminars, workshops and conferences. “Sharing what I learned is exciting and gratifying. Work in the lab is fraught with failures and setbacks, but it’s worth it when you present your successes.”
His presentations earned honors at the Tri-Beta Biology Honors Society 2015 and 2016 regional conferences; Purdue North Central 2016 Student Research Day; and the Purdue Calumet 2016 Student Research Day.
“The sciences taught me to question everything and to seek out answers,” Kennedy said. “I enjoy the critical thinking skills and practice that the sciences provide. As a student I was able to work with people in a variety of departments and disciplines. The University offers a well-rounded experience.”
He credited Assistant Professor of Biology Lindsay Gielda as his “motivator, educator and shoulder to cry on. Her passion for science is only rivaled by her dedication to the success of her students. She is a fantastic mentor and friend.”
Secrets to Success
Kennedy shares his formula for success with other students. “Get involved in clubs, apply for scholarships, talk to professors just for fun, do research, hit the gym and spend time with family and friends,” he suggested. “Four years go by faster than you imagine. Don’t waste time waiting for the ‘right’ time, charge ahead and have fun along the way.”
Reflecting on his accomplishments, he said, “I am not the smartest, hardest working, most eloquent or most qualified person. It doesn’t take perfection to accomplish great things. Far from it. I owe my successes to effort, staying true to myself and a fantastic support group that supported me through it all.”