I grew up in a family that had not experienced the privilege of a college education, so a career in academia was the last thing I expected to pursue. If it weren’t for my Baylor experience, I’d still believe that’d be a truth.
My junior year in high school, my dad fell down a creek and fractured his cervical spine, forever rendering him paralyzed from the shoulders down. This tragedy crushed my family financially and spiritually. Despondent, I began searching for ways I could help families like mine. Quickly, I was introduced to medical research in a Veterans Affairs lab near my home. I realized the importance of this work, especially for those suffering in respect to medical illness. At the same time, though, I was intimidated by everything — the words, the numbers, the machines, the people — and I thought the skills involved in research would remain beyond me.
My first year at Baylor, however, revealed to me that research was indeed a possibility. Dr. Tamarah Adair — my first biology professor at Baylor — worked by my side every week in a research-based biology course aimed at providing first-year college students an opportunity to investigate bacteriophages through genomics. This experience instilled in me the much-needed confidence to approach Dr. Bryan Shaw and ask for a spot in his lab. Shaw helped engineer an app that detects leukocoria (“white eye”) in photographs of children with eye cancer and other diseases. He started this project after tragedy struck his family, too. After a few months, Shaw put me in charge of the whole project. That moment affirmed for me a future in research and the possibility of having a valuable mentor and friend.
Weekly, if not daily, I met with Shaw to discuss data organization and analysis, results, and other publications related to our field of study. Every day during school breaks, he invited me to eat at his house on campus — a great alternative to my dorm creations. During summers, he offered free housing if needed. This experience, I believe, is unmatched, and it captures the essence of a university so deeply rooted in Christ, teaching and research. Additionally, the study I led with Shaw over my three years at Baylor demonstrates strong potential to be published within peer-reviewed journals.
"Baylor has allowed me to accomplish feats I never believed I would have accomplished."
Baylor has allowed me to accomplish feats I never believed I would have accomplished. In addition to working with Shaw on eye disease detection in children, I spent my summers elucidating the molecular pathways involved in Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension on a paid internship at Johns Hopkins Medical School. Recently, I was named a Barry M. Goldwater Scholar in STEM research.
Three years ago, no one would have guessed that I might have an opportunity to become involved in medical research that is saving lives. Now, as a senior at Baylor, I have world-class faculty willing to vouch for me and my future vocation. It seemed impossible at first, but this is exactly what Baylor means by Illuminate.