Senior Chemical Engineering (ChE) major Julie Boshar from North Andover, Massachusetts, is a straight-A student “with a passion for improving healthcare,” the recent winner of a $1,000 Hannah Frilot Memorial Scholarship and $10,000 William M. Bulger Presidential Scholarship, and a member of the prestigious Commonwealth Honors College. But this highly thoughtful, idealistic, and talented young woman can trace her accomplishments to her beloved Giddo (Arabic for grandfather) and his kitchen.
“My most salient memories are from Giddo’s kitchen,” Julie recalls. “He always had chicken noodle soup cooking on the stove and made the most delicious hummus. Each time I entered Giddo’s kitchen, I was greeted with the same smile and cheerful ‘how do you do!’ He loved apples and always had a bowl of caramel creams within reach. He could recite poetry with poise and enthusiasm, and fix or build just about anything. My grandfather filled my heart and soul with the best memories. Giddo passed away in June of 2015 at the age of 92, but he has always been and will continue to be my biggest influence in every aspect of life.”
Julie remembers that Giddo, one of five children born to Lebanese immigrants who settled in Lawrence, Massachusetts, “supported and raised his children, and he later loved and cherished 12 grandchildren all equally.” He was an aircraft mechanic during WWII and went on to become an ironworker who taught the trade to apprentices. All this despite the fact that he lost his hearing in one ear in an automobile accident, two fingers in an electrical accident, his beloved wife to cancer, and later in life he had a triple bypass surgery and suffered from cancer and dementia.
“I truly do not know a stronger person,” says Julie. “His life is the most remarkable example of strength, resilience, perseverance, and courage.”
When it comes to strength, resilience, perseverance, and courage, Julie also likes to quote Eleanor Roosevelt: “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror, I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
Julie recalls that “Giddo did this time and time again. I do not know many other people who could. The lessons I learned from Giddo’s resilience and strong work ethic have taught me to work hard for what I believe in. I study chemical and biochemical engineering because I believe that there is a cure for cancer. Giddo’s life exemplifies that every day is a gift. Every day I work hard to learn my trade because that is what Giddo always did, and I am eternally honored to be his granddaughter.”
Julie’s inspiration from Giddo has led to many hard-earned successes in her young life. The Hannah Frilot Memorial Scholarship was created to honor Hannah Frilot's memory at UMass Amherst. Hannah was a rising senior studying Industrial Engineering when she died tragically after being hit by a car in July of 2014. The William M. Bulger Presidential Scholarship is intended to "provide recognition of and financial assistance to five outstanding students" who attend any UMass campus. "Over one million dollars were raised in honor of [Bulger's] 70th birthday in 2004. President Bulger directed these gifts to UMass for the purpose of providing financial assistance to motivated students who are serious about their education."
Yet, those two prestigious scholarships are only the tip of the iceberg for Julie’s work at UMass Amherst. Julie has been a member of the UMass Amherst chapters of the Society of Women Engineers, the International Society of Pharmaceutical Engineers, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi, and the Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society for First-Year Students. Additionally, she has kept her passion for field hockey alive by playing intramural field hockey every fall for three years, and her team has won the league championship for two consecutive years.
Among several sophisticated undergraduate research projects that Julie has worked on at UMass, she helped to investigate a means for optimizing somatic embryogenesis for an industrial collaboration with Dr. Susan Roberts of ChE, and Julie is currently studying the skeletal mechanical environment and its regulation of cancer with Dr. Maureen Lynch of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department for her Honors Senior Thesis.
Julie’s inspiration and ideals have also led to some invaluable professional development. “I believe in a world without cancer,” says Julie who was a Biologics Process Development Intern at Millennium: The Takeda Oncology Company in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for two summers. “I have advanced both my technical and my professional skills immensely.”
Julie also believes that collaborative science across all disciplines is “at the root of a cure.” This summer, Julie is working as a Research Biochemistry/Molecular Biology Intern at Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, also in Cambridge, where she continues broadening her “knowledge of the development of novel therapeutics.”
Julie says she is honored to be a Hannah Frilot scholar because she shares Hannah’s passion for improving society. With this spirit, Julie finds yet more inspiration from the following quote by the great African-American author, poet, and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
As Julie says, “This quote resonates with me; I believe that it perfectly describes my college journey and my mentality in two short sentences.”
She adds that “I have lived according to Maya Angelou’s few words at UMass Amherst every step of the way, without always knowing it. I plan to use my degree in chemical and biochemical engineering in a career in the pharmaceutical industry to work towards improving global healthcare by developing safe and effective therapies for patients. I am passionate about helping people. To me, being an engineer means that I can use my education and critical thinking skills to help people in ways that not everyone can.” Ultimately, Julie says she seeks to “help engineer change in healthcare” because she knows that, as she continues to “do better,” she becomes closer and closer to “helping patients to live better.” (July 2016)