Carol Mata

Earlier this year, Carol Mata was awarded the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Scholarship for the Fall 2016 semester. Her winning essay told the story of her father, who passed away after being diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer a year and a half ago.

Over the summer, Carol has been occupied with preparing for the upcoming school year. “Since I've been honored with the the Mesothelioma Alliance Cancer Scholarship, I have been very busy,” she recently told us as part of a follow-up. “As most students have the summers off, that is not the case for engineering at The University of Cincinnati. I was enrolled as a full-time student and taking classes for the summer semester.”

Not only has Carol continued taking courses, however; she has also been gaining work experience in her chosen field, while managing to find some time to return home for visits with family and friends. “In addition, I continued to work part time for Kinetic Vision as much as my school hours would permit,” she said. “I still balanced semi-frequent trips back home to Canton, Ohio to spend time with family and friends. I did not get as many breaks or vacations as hoped, and it was very stressful at times, but I ended the semester well and I feel as if I have progressed strongly as a student and worker as a Biomedical Engineer.”

In many ways, Carol’s devotion to her studies, work, and the important people in her life are an expression of the passion inspired by her father. “I wouldn't grant a sole person as the reason for my choice to be a biomedical engineer as it is has been from a culmination of experiences that led to my ambition to make an impact on the medical world. However, my father was a huge inspiration to the choice,” Carol told the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance.

“I always knew I wanted to go into the medical world, but it was through my father’s grit and intelligence as an electrical engineer that I desired to fuse the two. I love the anatomy and complex way the human body works, but I also enjoy the logical analysis of problems through math and science. The choice as a biomedical engineer only made sense. The diagnosis of my father purely added fuel to my flame. I've never been more inspired than from living out the events proceeding from his diagnoses and gradual decline in health.”

Her father’s experiences, and Carol’s own experiences in seeing the progression of her father’s cancer, have given her the drive to find better treatments – and possibly even a cure – for others who go through the same thing. Now, she hopes that her college education can give her the skills and background to see that dream come true.

“My education at the University of Cincinnati will equip me with the tools, knowledge, experience, and connections to succeed in my aspirations as a Biomedical Engineer,” Carol explained. “It will allow me to grow as a person, and set me on a path of my choice. One that I can confidently say I worked for and want to be on. I never want to feel as helpless as I did sitting next to my father in the hospital. Hopefully by the end of my studies I will have the knowledge or access to aide others in similar situations as I went through.”

For Carol, the opportunity to receive this education is a chance to fulfill her goals, and the scholarship award a big part of helping her get to that goal. “Being awarded this scholarship was truly a blessing,” she expressed. “Nothing could make me happier than hearing my mother’s voice light up at the news. Ironically, I had learned of this achievement exactly 3 months from when my father passed. It was an answer to many prayers from loved ones, and a light to a dark day for the family. It helped a lighten the burden for my journey as a student and I am truly grateful.”

As she continues her education and the pursuit to become a biomedical engineer, Carol has some advice for others who are going through a similar loss of a family member due to cancer or another disease. “The one message I would give someone with the loss of the loved one is simple, yet so hard to swallow. You are not alone. It may seem that way, in the darkest times it is easy to let the silence get to you. To let the pain consume your thoughts. However I give this advice: there are others that have and are going through the same thing. Find them. Talk to them. There is a community waiting to surround you. It is not an easy road but I have had the most meaningful conversations since my father's passing and I have never grown more as a person. Appreciate those you love and find more to love on. I look to God, family, and friends. And I have never been so grateful for all of those in my life then now.”

The Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance wants to thank Carol for offering this update of her studies, and we wish her all the best as she continues to pursue her goal of becoming a biomedical engineer.

Applications for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Scholarship for Spring 2017 are now open. If you have had cancer, or have seen a loved one go through a battle with cancer, submit your essay today and receive a chance to win $4,000 toward your college education. The deadline for the Spring 2017 semester is December 1, 2016.