Bucks Biotech Grad to Fight Cancer from the Lab
By Kimberly Kratz, Class of 2011
When you talk to Chelsea Karacz, you get the distinct impression that cancer, under her watch, doesn't stand a chance. Her family like millions of others has been affected by the disease. "You want to help your loved ones, and for me, that's how the passion for cancer research happened," she said.
Fresh from high school, Karacz enrolled as a biology major at Bucks County Community College with the dream of a career that includes hands-on lab work. During her freshman year, online classes afforded her the ability to travel while schooling. When Bucks added a degree program in Biotechnology, she transitioned to on-campus courses and there found her path to biomedical research.
Karacz first encountered Associate Professor of Biology and Biotechnology Science, Dr. Linda Rehfuss when she took a biotechnology course; Rehfuss later became her advisor. "Chelsea shows a dedication and commitment to the work that I have seen in very few students. She will succeed in the field because she has a keen understanding of the problems associated with cancer research and biotechnology and she will attack those problems with all her available knowledge, skills and resources. I suspect we will see great things from Chelsea in the future!"
Karacz credits both Rehfuss and Dr. Stephen Goshorn, with lighting her passion. "The two put it into perspective for me—like this is really what I want to do. I got to talk to both of them about their experience working in the labs. Both had been working in industry before and I loved their classes. Everything was hands-on, doing the experiments. I really got to see what I would be doing or could be doing in my career."
The prerequisites at Bucks allowed Karacz to utilize many new laboratory techniques that she considers a major stepping stone toward her transfer to Thomas Jefferson University. "After coming to Jefferson, I realized how ahead of the game I was in the lab, just already having had that previous hands-on experience that I did at Bucks."
Next in store is a two-year paid fellowship at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. As she gains experience, she plans to apply for a PhD program. "I really want to get involved in cancer research, particularly working in the lab for a few years and then going on to clinical trials. I really see myself working in immunotherapy and drug development."
Karacz shared this piece of advice for future Bucks students: "Don't underestimate your time there, utilize it for its potential. If you have a passion in life and you have chosen Bucks for whatever reason, allow yourself to be completely absorbed by everything you have at your disposal."