Crazy-Busy Hardly Describes Honors Student Kara McClain

“I am a first-generation student trying to navigate my way through to graduate school. When I started at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, I knew I wanted to go into the medical field and help people. Then I started working on research and I learned about the combined MD/PhD degree and thought this would be a way I can do the research I am drawn to and apply it in a clinical setting,” Kara McClain told the Pittsburgh TribLive reporter after she was told she had won a prestigious Goldwater Scholarship.

McClain’s path through school has not been an easy one. The western Pennsylvania native faced difficult times when her family’s home burned when she was 16. That left McClain going from house to house for a while and required that she pay her own way through college. “I was excited to win. I’m responsible for my own finances. So next year, I won’t have to take any loans,” McClain said. In McClain’s eyes it will be easy! With no loan debt to worry about, she’ll only have to juggle 20 credits a semester with clinical work in a hospital, work on her Goldwater-winning research studying tick-borne diseases, and travel as the only competitive female member of the university’s cycling team.