Kennesaw State graduate brings two worlds together

KENNESAW, Ga. | May 7, 2024

Sarah Change
Sometimes, Sarah Chang’s days started at 8 a.m. with a class and a lecture in the College of Science and Mathematics and ended at 11 p.m. with the sounds of her violin in a practice room at the Dr. Bobbie Bailey School of Music.

Chang admitted at times the long days wore on her, but she has achieved the goal of her self-designed academic journey—bachelor’s degrees in biology and music performance from Kennesaw State University.

“I liked how flexible KSU is and also how encouraging they are for what I want to do,” said Chang, also enrolled in the KSU Journey Honors College. “Even though it might not be traditional and it took me an extra year, my professors and advisors were really supportive and helped me out a lot.”

Growing up in a musical family, Chang was exposed daily to recordings or her mother playing the piano and cello. When she was 3, a DVD of a world-renowned violinist, also named Sarah Chang, playing Niccolo Paganini’s Violin Concerto No. 1 mesmerized her, enough that she said she watched it several times daily for months. Three years later, Chang took her first piano lesson from her mother, and at 11 picked up the violin.

Around the same time, Chang saw family members and friends struggle with health issues that involved hospitalization, which left her with a feeling of helplessness she wanted to eliminate. Through her school years of high achievement in STEM classes, she arrived at Kennesaw State with a biology/pre-med track in mind.

“I always loved to help people and be of use. I would notice small cues when people need something, and I would just run around to get it for them,” she said. “I recall seeing the nurses and the doctors in the hospital and seeing how they directly affect patient care — that was a big inspiration for me to become a medical worker.”

In addition to her degree studies in biology, Chang did groundbreaking chemistry research in the lab of former assistant professor Graham Collier. She did research into semiconducting organic polymers—active-layer materials in sensors and screens in cellphones and TVs—that can dissolve in environmentally friendly solvents and offer possible biomedical application. She was a Birla Carbon Scholar in Summer 2023 and is working on a paper for publication.

Along with her research, Chang studied violin under professor Helen Kim and played in KSU’s Symphony Orchestra, serving as concertmaster for the past two years. She also played in the Cooke Scholarship Quartet as well as other small groups. For the past two years she played alongside her mother, Tabitha, who is studying music theory and expects to finish her bachelor’s degree in 2026.

“I’ve known Sarah for a long time and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching her grow as a musician and as a person,” Kim said. “To have excelled in biology and music to the extent that she has shows how diligent and intelligent she is, and it foreshadows great success in her future endeavors.”

After graduating this month, Chang will begin a master’s degree in public health at Emory University this fall. She still plans on attending medical school, but will take the next two years to expand her knowledge base through public health and work on her medical school applications.

Sure, the days were long and heavy with study and practice on two different parts of campus. But Chang said the two pursuits helped her be her own person, musician and scientist in one.

“I learned a lot about time management at KSU, like I could always be practicing or studying with those extra minutes,” she said. “KSU also helped me find lasting relationships, independence, and work-life balance.”

– Story by Dave Shelles

Photos by Darnell Wilburn Jr.

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 45,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit