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Christopher Clark '20

Christopher graduated in May 2020 with a dual degree in Environmental Science and iSTEP, STEM + German. During his time at UMass, Christopher studied abroad at the University of Freiburg and pursued advanced environmental health research on campus.
He will be continuing his education at the University of Michigan by pursuing a Masters of Science in Environmental Health Science in Fall 2020.



Why did you join iSTEP?

Every time iSTEP shared a new flyer, someone would send me a text or an e-mail saying that I should check the program out. Joining iSTEP presented me the opportunity to explore my love of language through my scientific studies. Turns out the iSTEP program was the perfect place for me to find a home in the greater campus community. 


How has your experience been with iSTEP Stem-German classes and balancing a double major/ dual degree with STEM?

I am receiving a dual degree in German and found with a bit of planning it was possible to achieve. I started my journey at UMASS with very limited knowledge of German and enrolled in GERMAN 110. I took at least one German class every semester until junior year. In my junior year, I began taking STEM- German courses and in the spring semester, I studied in Germany. I did have to pick up a bit more slack and on average take 17-18 credits a semester. I will be graduating fluent in another language! Isn't that the coolest?


Tell us about your abroad experiences in Germany (study abroad, internships etc).

I made one of the best choices of my life by spending my Junior spring in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany. I found that a piece of my heart and soul was transplanted to Freiburg. I arrived knowing no one and by the end, I made friends from all over the world. I took a step into the unknown and I came back a better version of myself.

I took an arrangement of German classes that focused on language and grammar, as well as, cultural studies of the region, and a course in renewable energy. I was able to fulfill my remaining Gen-Ed requirements and significantly every facet of my German language skills. I did not participate in an internship, although I was able to study things that personally interested me. The most interesting was the chance to take a closer look at the Black Forest's ecosystem and natural history. If you are interested in reading about my AMAZING experience abroad, come check out my blog: 


How has the iSTEP program prepared you to be successful abroad and in your STEM field?

The iSTEP program encouraged me to pursue courses relevant to my scientific interests. With iSTEP, I had an upper-hand on engaging with more complex topics that are not used in every day language, but are very important to know as an environmental scientist. 


What would you say to someone thinking about joining the iSTEP Program? 

Something that I loved about my education was my ability to study a language. Joining iSTEP broke up the monotony of my courses and added a bit of fun to my education. I was able to diversify my knowledge in the topics iSTEP discussed with a classroom filled will students across a set of disciplines. If you have a passion, pursue it.


What else are you involved in on campus? 

I have spent more than 2 years researching the effects of toxic exposures on zebrafish in the Timme-Laragy Lab. I am a community organizer for an advocacy group in my hometown, after our drinking water was contaminated with the same chemicals I study in the Timme-Laragy lab. 

I am an avid mentor and work with an array of students in STEM disciplines. I have been a member of the STEM Ambassadors Program (STEM AP) since my freshman year. STEM AP program is devoted to ensuring the success of STEM students from underrepresented groups through a strong network of diverse students and mentors. This year I taught a professional and leadership development seminar for sophomores. I help sophomores get a sense of what they should have accomplished by the time they are a senior. I am a also Forsythe-Grange Mentor and work with a group of freshman environmental science students.  


What are your future career plans? Has iSTEP opened any doors for you?

This coming fall I will be pursuing a Masters of Science in Environmental Health Science at the University of Michigan. I am also the recipient of a merit fellowship that will cover the cost of attendance next year. Leaving UMASS with a degree from the iSTEP program leaves me with the ability to connect my knowledge of the environment to a German context. I hope that I can find a way to connect my graduate education with international affairs and policy, especially in the German-speaking world. 


Is there anything else you would like to add?

Vielen Dank an UMASS, iSTEP und die Deutsche Fakultät. Ohne euch alle hätte ich es nicht geschafft! <3