Fatima Madondo Receives STEM Rising Star Award

Fatima Madondo commencement

Fatima Madondo ’22 received the Rising Star Award from the Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts in Harrisburg, which recognizes a woman in STEM who is making great strides in her education. Madondo joined Julianna Koehl ’21, the 2019 recipient, as LVC students to win the award.

“It is encouraging to know that I have the potential to change the world through science and that we can work together as women to bring that change,” said Madondo, upon receiving the award. “I hope to build strong relationships with the other award winners, learn about their fields, how they have contributed to their field as women, and challenges they may have faced along the way.

“I am positive that these women will serve as an inspiration for what I can become after graduation. I am energized by this honor and hope to celebrate more women’s achievements in the workforce and encourage more women to pursue their careers in the STEM field.”

Madondo, a neuroscience major with a minor in chemistry, has conducted research with Dr. Mukunda Ghimire, assistant professor of chemistry, on hydrogel nanoparticles that can detect and treat cancer cells. She also completed research on the effects of iron deficiency in the brain with Dr. Erica Unger, director of neuroscience.

Madondo was supposed to spend this past summer conducting research through the Harvard Stem Cell Institute Internship Program, though this opportunity has now been postponed to Summer 2021 due to the pandemic.

“I will work with Dr. Vasudevan [associate professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School] whose research focuses on cancer cells and regenerative medicine that is a perfect fit with knowledge and skills I gained at LVC. Interning at Harvard will enable me to tie everything together. Most importantly, this experience will promote my individual growth and development at the personal and professional level,” she said.

So, what sparked Madondo’s passion for science and research that led to all these opportunities and achievements? Well, that answer takes us quite a few (thousand) miles away.

Madondo hails from Zimbabwe, a landlocked country in southern Africa, and where she was first introduced to the world of scientific research. As a high school student, she participated in science competitions, including one that was a landmark in her education journey.

“I was part of a team that made a pesticide from peppermint leaves. We made lots of mistakes, but after listening to various people’s feedback, we finally made a better version. I realized that I do not know everything. Still, through science, I have limitless opportunities to learn about the world around me continuously, so I decided to pursue science,” she said.

With encouragement and guidance from the United States Embassy in Zimbabwe to explore liberal arts institutions in the U.S., Madondo applied and was accepted into the Education USA advising program. As an active member, she received guidance and support to find a place to pursue her dream, eventually discovering LVC and the Almond Tree Scholarship.

Established by Jonna-Lynn Knauer Mandelbaum ’69, B.S.N., M.P.H., Ph.D., the scholarship was awarded to students of high promise but limited financial means from sub-Saharan Africa. Almond Tree Scholars receive tuition, room, board, and taxes, as well as an annual $6,500 stipend for travel and other related expenses.

“I knew I wanted to be part of LVC because it seemed to me that students were not just treated as a statistic but received personal attention to help them attain their goals, and my assumptions were right,” said Madondo.

As she looks toward the future, Madondo plans to attend medical school after graduating from LVC to pursue a career in medical research, focusing on cancer research and regenerative medicine.


Darby Seymour, Marketing & Communications Student Assistant

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