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Student receives prestigious CSU scholarship

Ernesto Rivera

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Natalie Holmberg-Douglas is the recipient of the prestigious Cal State University Trustees’ Awards for Outstanding Achievement. Photo credit: Ernesto Rivera

Natalie Holmberg-Douglas is not one to sit still.

If she’s not tutoring agriculture and chemistry students, she’s being the vice president of the Chico State Chemistry Club. When she isn’t planning the Chico State Future Farmers of America Field Day, she is developing drugs to help cure cancer.

Her achievements haven’t gone unnoticed. Not only has she won dozens of scholarships — including the prestigious Lt. Robert Merton Rawlins Merit Award — Holmberg-Douglas, a senior double major in animal science and biochemistry, is the recipient of the California State University Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement. The award, given to one student from each CSU, is the highest honor the Cal State system awards.

But her life hasn’t always been a success story in the making. She and her family have struggled for years through many problems including income troubles, the loss of her house in Penn Valley and health issues.

“In high school, my brother got into hard drugs and it was really hard on my family and it basically tore us apart,” she said.

Even with all her personal struggles, Holmberg-Douglas used them as motivation to pursue her dreams.

“I kept seeing a lot of people from successful families become successful and I felt like maybe my family circumstances weren’t going to allow me to be successful,” she said. “I didn’t want that to happen because I didn’t think that was fair.”

Now, Holmberg-Douglas is well on her way. Over the summer, she received a research grant and immediately began working on developing a drug that will kill cancer cells by trying to synthesize a small library of inhibitors to inhibit a protein called GRB7.

“I’m trying to make a drug that’s going to stop GRB7 from interacting with another protein, and that’s going to kill cancer cells,” she said. “GRB7 is over-expressed in various cancers, including ovarian and breast cancer.”

Her research mentor Carolynn Arpin, an assistant chemistry professor, said Holmberg-Douglas takes advantage of the opportunities available to her.

“She knows what this education is worth and the effort she should put toward it,” Arpin said.

After graduation, Holmberg-Douglas wants go to veterinary school, pursue her Ph.D. and continue to do research.

“I want to somehow increase the world’s knowledge of science somehow,” she said. “I want to be able to help people.”

But Holmberg-Douglas admits that all this doesn’t come easily.

“It’s hard to stay focused and stay driven,” she said. “I have this really strong ambition to be successful and even though there’s all these hiccups, I don’t want that to slow me down.”

Ernesto Rivera can be reached at [email protected] or @ernestorivera on Twitter.

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Student receives prestigious CSU scholarship