NORTHAMPTON >> Coping with COVID-19 changes has been quite cumbersome ... for some.

“If I could move with the weather. Over the clouds just to get to the other side… I would be going forever….”

Kerri Michelle Czekner courageously moved from working in a lab, to soldering and testing electrical circuits at her desk in her bedroom after her off-campus Frederick National Labs internship was canceled. She was awarded a research and experiential learning Mount Fellowship stipend enabling her to purchase equipment and perform 64 hours of research for the creation of a spectrophotometer using Arduino technology, along with her faculty advisor, Associate Professor of Science Garth Patterson, Ph.D.

A spectrophotometer is a sensitive instrument that quantitatively measures the transmission or reflection of visible light, UV light or infrared light, the amount of photons [the intensity of light] absorbed after it passes through sample solution.

One can learn a lot about a substance by studying the way it interacts with light!

“I also learned that research can be really expensive. If I built my own, it was possible to do more! It was important to me to keep researching and building instrumentation.”

Last summer, from June 18th through August 7th, she concentrated at home on her self-directed project that included weekly meetings with Professor Patterson and two other students working on other instrumentation-based and analytical instrument projects.

Kerri conceived the idea to test and scan wine samples’ characteristics and automatically calculate with calibration curves, the color intensity and hue including its density for quality control. She planned and executed the project and produced data that demonstrated direct success over the course of a very short summer.

“The spectrophotometer I designed and prototyped would potentially be a low-cost and simple alternative to commercial spectrophotometers for winemakers or enthusiasts.”

She exhibited strategic thinking, using design thinking to work in a customer-focused way for the beverage industry while she ingeniously applied agile ways of working to enhance speed and efficiency.

Her daily tasks had been divided into two categories: programming and hardware. Kerri learned how to write code for the Arduino, a small computer she used, and she learned how to wire electrical components including creating electrical circuits, calculating resistance and soldering.

“I had minimal programming and no electronic skills and I progressed to building a working instrument.

I am really excited about it!” she emphasized. “All my research advisors have been awesome. I am sincerely grateful for the opportunities.”

Kerri’s father James is a programmer and a financial systems consultant, and her mother, Donna has a degree in math. Mr. and Mrs. Czekner are truly proud parents.

“We believe that Kerri’s most impressive quality is her capacity to learn so many different topics and leverage them. We had the unique opportunity as parents to watch her use her cross disciplinary abilities as she taught herself basic microelectronics, digital design, and embedded software development, all in her bedroom. Each day, we watched in amazement as she designed, researched, and executed this project.”

Kerri has clearly demonstrated an admirable adaptive mind-set, being most flexible and responsive with an enviable rare blend of vision, empathy, and creativity, complemented by her resilient savviness.

“'Cause there's a magic in the way that we move on…. Always having to make a decision to stay…”

She earned the prestigious and amazing honor of Class of 2017 valedictorian at Villa Joseph Marie, the premier, private, all-girls college preparatory academically comprehensive experience in Holland.

She was honored as a John Fisher Citizen Scholar by the Bucks County Courier Times and celebrated as Best of the Class by 6abc. She also was awarded a $1,000 scholarship for students of Italian descent by the Piazza Nuovo Lodge. She was the VJM 2015-2016 Poet Laureate and named Student of the Month by the Rotary Club. In 2014, she was a finalist in an Academic Reflections essay contest for the Harry Potter Conference at Chestnut Hill College.

“I’ve looked up to Kerri for as long as I can remember. By passing on her love of books to me, she introduced me to a whole other world that I otherwise wouldn’t have known,” shared her youngest sister, Brenna Rose, VJM ’23.

Kerri, an accomplished NHS student, acknowledges the benefit of the VJM scholastics.

“Ms. McBrinn was a very big part of my life. She really pushes you to do more and better than you thought that you could. That contributed to my success. She taught me critical thinking and how to write really good essays,” shared Kerri.

Mutual admiration is shared.

“Kerri brought intellectuality and her unique wit to a class of students already intellectually capable. Ironically, though, it is Kerri’s artistic creativity that I remember most. I still have a small picture of the Three Fates, I believe, that she completed in a relatively abstract manner. It is fascinating. Not bad for someone who is a science major!” confirmed Laurie M. McBrinn, M.Ed., VJM English Department Chair.

She admits that for her, drawing is a relaxing hobby. “I usually just draw with pencil and paper, but sometimes I use gouache paints, similar to water color,” Kerri shared.

She also loves listening to her talented sister Brenna play the piano, flute or violin.

Kerri was awarded the MSMU Founder's Scholarship as an incoming freshman.

This industrious Mount Saint Mary’s University senior is living at the Emmitsburg, MD main campus while majoring in Biochemistry, along with a minor In English.

For one year, she held a position on the Editorial Board of the Tolle Lege, the Mount's student Journal of Theology and Philosophy, selecting and editing philosophy essays for publication.

Kerri was awarded the Monsignor Hugh J. Phillips Prize at MSMU her freshman year for having attained the highest GPA and an equivalent award every subsequent year.

She originally entered college interested in Alzheimer’s research.

“When I was in 8th grade at St. Ephrem’s, we had a current events project, Mrs. Needham’s “famous magazine project” and I did some Alzheimer’s research then. It was so interesting how they figured out what was the problem. It would have been easy to blow it off but it unexpectedly changed my life.”

Emerging scientific breakthroughs and powerful new competitors are reshaping the sector in the life sciences industry as it continues to rapidly evolve.

So, what is ‘life science’ anyway?

Life science is an enormous field of study that examines every living thing on earth aiming to learn everything about life on this planet.

Biochemistry is both life science and a chemical science.

As a MSMU graduate, Kerri will be uniquely equipped to provide scientific perspective and solutions to the complex problems facing humanity, and she is clearly on course to be able to make most significant impacts to the health and well-being of our world.

She recognizes, “This is a huge field. There are so many research areas.”

“Never been good with the balance…. The kind it takes just to keep the silver line….”

Kerri has always gone for the gold!

She welcomed the rigorous instructional opportunities that were afforded to her at VJM. She made the decision to attend Mount Saint Mary’s to further her education because she sought similar high challenges with high support.

Mount Saint Mary’s is much the same as VJM had been for her.

She admits that she “would pretty much still wear a uniform”, but now the go-to-garb is shirts and jeans.

“Villa has really great academic programs and the community was important to me. The people were so welcoming. That’s it, strong academics and a nurturing community!” she attested.

“I expected to be intimidated by my panel interview at Mount Saint Mary’s but they were so welcoming and generally interested.”

VJM graduates are empowered young women, well prepared for responsible moral leadership.

Her Villa Joseph Marie education has been an investment in her future.

“I was prepared. I’ve done harder things than this with a stomach ache! A powerful word for me is grit and I learned that one from Mrs. Carr,” shared Kerri.

Mrs. Lauren E. Carr is a VJM graduate, VJM math teacher, and the Villa Joseph Marie Principal.

“Kerri is an intelligent young woman with a very bright future. Amazing that she adapted her internship from her bedroom during the quarantine; but no surprise that she was able to do so- she has always been a problem solver,” shared Lauren Carr.

“It has been challenging but I’ve dealt with challenges,” she confirmed.

Kerri possesses the initiative, potential, and singularity to live significantly.

Her current hybrid school life, a mixture of in-person and online classes, consists of “lots of lab work for analytical and physical chemistry, AND I am applying to grad school!”

Hands on, more research based techniques for cancer cures entices her. “PhD in Biology is the goal!”

Grad schools on her radar include Johns Hopkins University, NYU, CUNY, Yale, Rutgers and Georgetown.

“I worked in the labs of the Assistant Professor of Chemistry Isaac Mills, Ph.D. since my freshman year and this has been instrumental in helping me pursue my career choices.”

As a VJM student, Kerri had taken Italian as her language, and she recently had the opportunity to study abroad in Florence, Italy through the MSMU Art Department.

“I plan to earn a Ph.D. in medical research, and I am particularly interested in oncology. Recently, I’ve been reading oncology research coming out of labs in Milan, Italy, so I think my dream job would be in one of those labs.”

P.S. Her favorite food is Italian food. “My grandmother, MaryAnn DiPasquale’s pasta is the best!

I learned how to make pasta and gnocchi with her from scratch!”

Kerri has “learned a ton and it has been valuable” and she has always been leading her siblings by example.

“Since I was little, I’ve looked up to Kerri for everything. I am so proud of the amazing work she has done, and I’m excited to see what she does in the future. She has inspired me to reach higher and work harder, and I hope she continues to inspire others,” shared her younger sister Tara Nicole, VJM ‘20/ Shippensburg U.

The future is HERE. It just hasn’t been distributed yet.

Italicized lyrics from one of Kerri’s favorite songs, “Jealous Of Birds” by Bre Kennedy

Recommend a “Children are our Future” Spotlight. E-mail vjmrun@yahoo.com

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