After starting in the Biology department, I quickly became entranced by the detailed molecular mechanisms of how things work at the cellular level.
When did you decide you wanted to study molecular biology?
I originally came to VCU as a pre-med student because I wanted to help others. After starting in the Biology department, I quickly became entranced by the detailed molecular mechanisms of how things work at the cellular level. Both career services and my Biology advisers recommended I look into research opportunities at VCU, and I was hooked. I realized that through research, I could pursue my passion in the sciences while still helping others, so I continued to study biology with the goal of doing research in mind.
Did you have a favorite class in your major?
There were plenty of classes that I enjoyed in this major, but if I had to pick one as my favorite, it would be Cellular and Molecular Biology. Packed to the brim with detailed cellular mechanisms, it helped build the necessary foundation for a variety of upper level courses, such as Genetics and Neuroscience. I was excited to learn about the material since it was directly related to my interests, but my professor, Dr. Tricia Smith, was also very enthusiastic, making the material easy to digest and fun to learn.
Which professors have you enjoyed working with?
Over the past few semesters, I have worked closely with Dr. Sarah Golding in her research oriented classes: Directed Study, Introduction to Research and in this past year, Research and Thesis. In all of these courses, Dr. Golding has supported me every step of the way in my pursuit for a career in biological research. From advising research proposal topics to consultations for graduate school applications, she became a fantastic mentor to me in both an academic and professional manner.
Can you tell us about your research experience?
Through the Biology department, I had the opportunity to complete a number of research internships. I worked on research projects with the Massey Cancer Center in Dr. Andrei Ivanov's lab, a summer internship as a part of the Amgen Scholars program at Washington University in St. Louis, and am currently with Dr. Michael Miles at VCU’s Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology.
Each of these experiences taught me what biological research looks like in different professional settings, and the biology courses that I had been taking certainly helped prepare me for getting the most out of each project. It was like watching the material I've learned about come to life—biology became more than just factual information, but something I could manipulate and explore through laboratory techniques. I believe that my course work and my research projects worked hand-in-hand in helping me learn about biology from two different angles, helping me reach a more complete understanding in a way that neither could achieve alone.
Why should a student major in biology?
With such a wide range of fields within biology, this major gives you a solid background on general biology, then allows you to freely explore multiple specialized fields. Any student is given the opportunity to learn the biology they are most interested in, without being forced down one path or another. For me, I tailored my course work to be focused on research and genomics, but I was also able to take courses in neuroscience and the biology of drugs for example, since I was interested in neurogenomics and pharmacogenetics from my lab experiences. The diversity of courses in this major and the ability to study them without hindering progress towards graduation is truly where this major shines.