Hometown: Woodstock, GA
Current Residence: Nashville, TN
Current Profession: Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Vanderbilt University Medical Center
How did you decide to attend Rhodes?
I was the first generation of my family to go to college and my parents were incredibly supportive. They said if I worked hard and got the grades in high school, I could go anywhere. I had lived in Georgia my whole life, and so I knew I had to go far enough away to make myself feel independent. I got a mailing from Rhodes that had a gorgeous tower with blue sky and green grass. . . I loved the gothic architecture, the small, liberal arts aspect, and that it was in a big city. It’s the best of both worlds. On the mailing there was also a picture of students working in a lab and I had heard that the science program was amazing. Rhodes was always my top choice and then when I got my scholarships it was a done deal.
How has your experience at Rhodes impacted your life since graduation?
I would not be the person I am today without Rhodes because it opened so many doors. Rhodes definitely takes care of its own, and with 3 years of research and all the other resources Rhodes offers, the transition into the professional world was great. I just don’t think you can get that at a big school. I knew all of my faculty by name and the relationships I had with Rhodes faculty is the whole reason I believed in myself.
Did you always know that you wanted to do research in the medical field?
I’ve always been interested in science. My uncle has a PhD in Chemistry and I remember going into his lab when I was young and seeing his flasks and thinking it was the coolest job because he got to play with all those “toys” every day. My grandmother passed away from lung cancer and I think that really informed my interest in cancer research, but I also knew that I didn’t want to be a traditional MD doctor. Initially I didn’t know my path would lead to so much research or graduate school and a postdoctoral fellowship, but Dr. Mary Miller helped me to find my way.
Could you tell me more about Dr. Miller and how she guided you?
Mary Miller is my hero. From sophomore year to senior year I worked with her in her lab and fell in love with research and bench science. She helped me to find a way to take my love for research and my desire to help people and turn it into a career. She was the one who encouraged me to apply to graduate school at Stanford; she believed in me and helped me through the whole process and always reminded me that I would get my PhD one day. We still talk about once a month and now I have been helping her with some of her own research projects.
What was the most important thing you learned at Rhodes?
The lesson that has impacted me the most is that failure doesn’t define you. You might fail an experiment or get a bad grade on the test . . . but it’s okay because you can fix it. You can re-plan your experiment, or study harder for your tests. The encouragement I received at Rhodes helped me to understand this, strengthened my self-identity, and helped me to believe in myself. I was also taught that if failure comes again (which it will), it’s not the end of the world.
Written by Lauren Albright ′16