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For the Love of Science

July 5, 2020

Nina (Jocic) Bonde’s journey to PhD student in Biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has always been led by a love of science. Nina was born in the former Yugoslavia, and when she was three-years-old, her family immigrated to the United States, settling in Waterloo. 

Her family thrived in their new home. Both her parents went on to college and received degrees. Nina eventually attended high school at Waterloo West, where she not only excelled but connected to her community, including participating in the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa’s Teen Trust program. 

“I felt a really strong connection to my community. It’s always been a supportive community, and one thing that is unique is the diversity. It’s nice to have this variety of cultures,” said Nina. “Waterloo has always been a welcoming environment. I didn’t ever feel judgment being an immigrant. I always felt accepted.”

It’s also why she wanted to continue her education close to home at the University of Northern Iowa after graduation in 2015. To help offset the cost of college, Nina applied for scholarships through the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa. She was awarded a $5,000 scholarship from the Lary D. Zearley Science and Scholarship Fund.

Lary, a 1952 Waterloo West High School graduate, established the fund after his death to provide scholarships to future West High graduates, especially those with a gift for science. He had led a distinguished career in the field of prosthetics. Through his generosity, he has helped 43 students pursue their college education. The fund has awarded $105,000 in scholarships since 2012.  

“The scholarship was important because it allowed me to focus on my first year of college without as much stress about the financial aspect,” said Nina. 

Like Lary, Nina wants to make a difference for others.

“I have a huge passion for science and want to spend my life pursuing it,” expressed Nina. “I have a dream to become a professor. I valued my mentors at UNI, and I see myself stepping into a mentorship position where I’m working with undergraduates and helping them grow professionally.”