Lang Becomes First From Pitt-Johnstown to Win Phi Kappa Phi Graduate Fellowship

Mike Morlacci

posted June 26, 2017

Cara Lang '17 has become the first-ever Pitt-Johnstown graduate to win the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi graduate fellowship.

Cara Lang
Cara Lang is a 2017 Pitt-Johnstown graduate


Lang was a biochemistry-biology dual major and will pursue a PhD in cancer biology and immunology at Vanderbilt University.

The prestigious award is a first for a Pitt-Johnstown graduate, according to Pitt-Johnstown Phi Kappa Phi President Bob Matson.

Lang's undergraduate research included work with both Dr. Tim Evans and Dr. Becky Webb. 

A research article she worked on with Dr. Evans was published by Molecular BioSystems on June 26, 2017.

In addition, she participated in three different summer research experiences at Duquesne University, Johns Hopkins University, and at the Scripps Research institute.

She has served as vice president and president of our local chapter of the American Chemical Society. She is a member, as well as vice president, of the Phi Kappa Phi Honors Society chapter.

She is the Pitt-Johnstown 2017 College Scholar in Biochemistry, the recipient of the Campus Association Rosella Blackington Award for Outstanding Senior, and the Dr. and Mrs. Henry Idzkowsky Golden Candle Medal, which is presented to a female senior for outstanding academic achievement and leadership.

Lang is the daughter of Kevin and Kimberly Lang of Mt. Hope, PA, and a 2013 graduate of Forest Hills High School.

During his remarks to the Class of 2017 at commencement, Pitt-Johnstown President Jem Spectar noted Lang’s outstanding academic accomplishments as well as her resilient motivation.

“Cara’s personal loss inspired her to make a difference,” said Dr. Spectar. “Her academic and career path are the result of adversity and a strong belief that she could rise above loss to help save others.

“When she was in the seventh grade, she lost her grandfather to cancer. When she was young, she would spend most of her time with him, gardening, working on small projects, reading the newspaper, and sitting on the porch swing talking, or riding around the yard in his golf cart.   

“The day he passed away, Cara told her father that she wanted to find a cure. Her grandfather would tell her that as long as she worked hard and was honest no goal was impossible and if anyone makes a difference in cancer research, he was confident it will be Cara.  

“Cara has been a big part of Pitt-Johnstown’s chemistry department since her freshmen year – conducting research, tutoring, and student instructing. She has made a difference on the campus of Pitt-Johnstown and we are confident that she has only begun!”

Lisa Bell-Loncella, PhD, and chair of Pitt-Johnstown’s Chemistry Department, was one of Lang’s academic advisors. “Cara’s goal is to engage in cancer research,” said Dr. Bell-Loncella. “Through the various research experiences in which she has participated over the past three and a half years she has been able to narrow her interests to cancer immunotherapy, personalized cancer medicine, and drug development for cancer.

Stephen Kilpatrick, PhD, associate professor and chair of the Biology Department, was also a Lang advisor. “Cara is a top-notch scholar and was an active participant in the university community during her time as a student,” said Dr. Kilpatrick. “She is well-liked and respected by her peers.”

The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi, according to its website, "is the nation’s oldest and most selective all-discipline honor society. Standards for election are extremely high. Membership is by invitation only to the top 7.5 percent of second-semester juniors and the top 10 percent of seniors and graduate students. Faculty, professional staff, and alumni who have achieved scholarly distinction also may be eligible for membership.”

The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown is marking its 90th anniversary well as the 50th year of the campus in its Richland Township location. Pitt-Johnstown was founded in 1927 and is the first and largest regional campus of the University of Pittsburgh. Pitt-Johnstown is recognized by the Princeton Review as a “Best in the Northeast” college, by G.I. Jobs as a “Military Friendly School,” and by Pennsylvania Business Central as a "Top 100 Organization.” The distinctive combination of Pitt-Johnstown’s people, programs, and place results in exceptional performance in preparing students for career and professional success. Pitt-Johnstown is the regional leader, educating for success in the Real World.