For Jessica Meador, B.S. ’08, obtaining a biology degree was an extension of her lifelong interest in the world around her. “From a young age, my parents fostered in my siblings and me a love of nature, and I think that’s where my interest really began,” she said. “That interest and curiosity has never really gone away. In fact, the more I have learned, the more curious and fascinated I have become with the complexity of life.” She continues to develop her interests as a Ph.D. student in microbiology at the University of Oklahoma. Currently, she is researching the physiology and ecology of E.coli bacteria using molecular genetic techniques.
The product of a small town, Jessica knew she wanted to attend a school where she would be known as more than a number. When she visited Henderson, she said the friendliness of the people on campus won her over. After taking Introduction to Microbiology she was convinced that the biology program was for her. She got a work-study job in the Microbiology Lab and began working on an undergraduate research project on the systematics of the plant Heliotropium curassavicum with Dr. Troy Bray. The research exposed her to molecular genetics techniques—the same type of techniques she uses in the lab as a Ph.D. student now. “Those experiences were really influential in directing my interests,” she said. She also traveled to Panama and Belize with the biology department’s study abroad program, where she gained valuable, hands-on learning.
Jessica had the opportunity to teach Introduction to Biology labs while at Henderson as part of the inaugural class of the Biology Undergraduate Teaching Assistant Program. She said this experience “helped immensely in my preparation for graduate school. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to be a brand new grad student and to teach for the very first time.”
When it came time for Jessica to decide where she would go after graduating from Henderson, she turned to her professors in the biology department for help and encouragement. She said they spent hours guiding her through the application process and sharing their own graduate school experiences with her. Ultimately she chose and was accepted directly into a Ph.D. program. “Even when I doubted myself or my own ability, they always told me that I could do it. And when I finally got accepted and decided where I wanted to go, they were thrilled for me.”