University Student Among Nation’s Science Elite

April 29, 2015

Christopher L. Kilner, a triple major at The University of Scranton, is among just 260 students in the nation earning the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, which is one of the most coveted honors in science, mathematics and engineering that an undergraduate can achieve.

The Goldwater Scholars were selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1,206 mathematics, science and engineering students who were nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities nationwide.

Kilner is among only four students from four Jesuit universities awarded a Goldwater Scholarship for the 2015-2016 academic year. In addition to Scranton, Boston College, The College of the Holy Cross and Creighton University each also had a student named as a Goldwater Scholar. A full-tuition Presidential Scholar at Scranton, Kilner is the 11th University of Scranton student to be named a Goldwater Scholar in just over a decade.

A scholar, astute researcher and leader on campus, Kilner, Rockville, Maryland, maintains a 4.0 G.P.A. while pursuing a rigorous academic course load, participating in research and playing an active role in student government. A member of the University’s Special Jesuit Liberal Arts Honors Program, Kilner will graduate in 2016 with a triple major in biochemistry, cell and molecular biology, environmental science and philosophy and a minor in political science.

Mary Engel, Ph.D., director of health-professional school placement and fellowship programs at the University, describes Kilner as “a humble servant, one who observes closely the world around him in order that he might make himself useful to it.”

“Chris serves, investigates and leads in many fields, always giving his best. He leads effectively and powerfully, yet he never speaks of his accomplishments, and he never seems too busy to offer help when someone asks his assistance,” said Dr. Engel.

In his young life, Kilner has already established a history of public service. He is the founder and chairman of the Woape Foundation Corporation, a non-profit organization that aids Native American children. He began the foundation while in high school and continues to oversee its operation.

At the University, Kilner is the newly elected president of Student Government for the 2015-2016 academic year. He currently serves as the Student Government’s chief-of-staff.

Kilner’s desire to help others has even ignited his interest in research.

“I decided that working in research would be the best way to influence effective, scientifically-based public policy,” said Kilner, who participates in the University’s Faculty Student Research Program. He works with Biology Professor Kathleen Dwyer, Ph.D., to study “the function of Arabidopsis thaliana genes via fluorescence-tagging and RNAi.”

According to Kilner, these genes “are hypothesized to play an important role in cell signaling, plant development and plant defense.”

Kilner also earned a summer research position at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), working under the direction of Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz, Ph.D. There, he worked on DNA preparation and sequencing protocol. The protocol he developed increased the amplification yield of purified plasmid. Kilner was invited to return to Dr. Lippincott-Schwartz’s lab at the NIH this summer.

A Dean’s List student at Scranton, Kilner is a member of Phi Sigma Tau, the international honor society for students of philosophy, and Alpha Lambda Delta, the national freshman honor society, for which he also serves as president. He is a member of the University’s Sustainability Club and serves in the Campus Ministry Office. He also volunteers as a peer-tutor.

Kilner plans to pursue a Ph.D. and J.D. in the area of environment and natural resources, specializing in conservation biology. He hopes to focus his research “on the effects of climate change and environmental degradation on the genetic biodiversity of ecosystems and the collapse of these ecosystems.”

“I will also explore how ecosystem loss affects human health, human rights, and economic development,” said Kilner.

A National Merit Commended Scholar, Kilner graduated with the Don Smith History Award and The Jesuit Secondary Education Award from Gonzaga College High School, Washington, D.C. He is the son of Mark and Maura Kilner, Rockville, Maryland.

The Scholarship Program honoring Senator Barry Goldwater, which awarded its first scholarships in 1989, was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering. The Goldwater Scholarship is the premier undergraduate award of its type in these fields.

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