ASU Online graduate has sights set on research career

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2023 graduates.

When Kristen Krip graduated from Arizona State University in 2018 with an English degree, she loved writing, but she realized it wasn't what she wanted for her career.

Krip, who hails from Oxford, New Jersey, will graduate summa cum laude this spring with a Bachelor of Science in biochemistry from the School of Molecular Sciences.

“Kristen is a fantastic student leader, a caring mother to her children, and a compassionate friend to the other online students,” said Ara Austin, who is senior director of online engagement and strategic initiatives in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and assistant clinical professor in the School of Molecular Sciences. “She exudes kindness to everyone she meets, and her passion and enthusiasm for learning is contagious. I'm excited to see her take the next step in her research career, and it has been a delight to mentor her over the years.”

After a couple of years of research experience, as lab manager in professor Babdor's lab at UPenn, Krip said she will start her doctoral program. She is also currently homeschooling her three children, ages 10, 8 and 6.

She has won many accolades, including the SMS Women in Science Scholarship, Online Undergrate Research Scholars Research scholarship and Diane Cavanagh Scholarship for Oncology Research.

Krip won third place in a conference poster session at the Arizona Physiological Society Annual Meeting in Scottsdale last year. The research was conducted as part of an immersion class with Assistant Teaching Professor Susan Holechek in the School of Life Sciences.

Since 2021, Krip has been a successful tutor for the Online Learning Resource Center in the School of Molecular Sciences. She is the president of the online STEM student society at ASU called IDEAS and was awarded an Arizona Cancer Evolution Center (ACE) scholarship. The ACE Scholars program aims to recruit motivated undergraduates from a diverse set of backgrounds and skillsets to pursue research projects at the intersection of cancer biology and evolutionary theory.

Read more about her ASU experience below.

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in at ASU?

Answer: After I graduated with my degree in English, I wasn't really happy with my prospects. I enjoy writing for fun, but I realized that it wasn't what I wanted to do for a job. I had always been interested in science, though - as a teenager I had some health issues and considered being a doctor (rheumatologist) but after failing chemistry in high school, I thought I wasn't smart enough. My husband encouraged me to go back to school again, this time for biochemistry. I didn't know at the time what I actually wanted to do with it. I guess it was more of an experiment to see if I even could do it. My first semester back, I started with chemistry and completely decimated the class. After that, I kind of felt like I could do anything! 

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: This question made me think. ... So, probably the number one thing that really surprised me or changed my perspective is just realizing the barriers in place that keep less privileged individuals from succeeding and following their dreams. I think ASU is doing an excellent job of breaking down those walls, and I hope they continue to do so. But there's still a lot of stigma around being an online student.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: As a mother of three young children, attending ASU was my most affordable option. I didn't have to figure out child care, financially or logistically. I'm able to watch lectures and do homework whenever I can actually work it into my schedule, which sometimes means waking up at 4 a.m. or staying up past midnight.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: I don't know about "most important lesson " ... Different professors have taught me different things.

When I was in (Professor) Austin's organic chemistry class, I learned the power of "showing up". It wasn't a lesson she even directly taught me. But it was my third semester at ASU, and I had not really utilized office hours before. I'm not really even sure what drew me to office hours to begin with. ... But I went every week, and I spoke up and tried to answer questions and got to know her. I did very well and had the opportunity to work as a chemistry tutor, since she also runs the Online Learning Resource Center. I've been working as a tutor for over 2 years now. That experience taught me the importance of showing up and always giving your best, because it will open doors for you that you didn't even know you wanted. I've used that lesson in many situations since then.

From Professor Holechek, I learned a lot of those important transferable research skills, and I really just felt the power of someone believing in me. In the fall, I planned a personal experiment with a human intestinal epithelial cell line, and she encouraged me to reach out to different people and companies to get the supplies I needed to make it happen. There was a moment in the lab, when I was adding the antibodies to mark the specific protein I wanted to visualize, that really just hit me as very powerful. She believed I was capable before I knew I was. 

I owe so much to those two!

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you would give to students?

A: Don't treat school as an "in order to". Yes, we are all here on a pitstop to get to where we really want to be, whatever that is. But you need to enjoy this journey, and you need to let it change you. Show up to office hours. Figure out your best study methods so you're not just brain-dumping after an exam. Make connections, build friendships. One of the best decisions I made was joining IDEAS Student Society, which I'm now president of. It's an online STEM club at ASU, connecting students stationed all over the world. I have made so many lifelong friends. Take advantage of all the opportunities staff at ASU is trying to build for you. Take a research class and visit campus for the in-person component. All of these things are going to prepare you for whatever comes after you graduate.

Q: What was your favorite spot for power studying?

A: I've been to campus a few times for research immersions with Professor Holechek and my favorite food place is original ChopShop! I'm gluten-free, and the food there is just so delicious and satisfying.

As far as power-studying, my husband bought me a desk for our bedroom. So I'm usually either there or at the kitchen counter. My daughter likes me being near, so sometimes I'll just set up shop on the kitchen counter so she can play and run around or do school work, too.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I wanted to go to grad school. This past cycle, I applied to a handful of PhD programs and even got an interview! However, it wasn't a great match. I was recently hired as the lab manager for Professor Joel Babdor at the University of Pennsylvania.

I think it's important to remember for those who want to continue on for higher education, we're playing the long game here. Things have gotten progressively more competitive, and we can't take it personally if we aren't chosen on our first try. Figure out how to make yourself a more competitive candidate and build yourself up. Again and again.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would definitely tackle global warming. Even my kids talk about developing ways to capture carbon, reduce pollution, etc. It's a huge problem and the people who will suffer first (and the most) are those living in poverty. 

Jenny Green