LAS VEGAS, NM ― New Mexico Highlands University 2018 biology graduate Megan Thursby had the enviable challenge of choosing from five doctoral programs in biomedical sciences that accepted her, all offering full financial rides.
“I’m interested in biomedical sciences because the field is always changing because technology is providing us with tools to investigate answers to questions we have about the human body and its dysfunction,” Thursby said. “I want to use bioinformatic software that enables scientists to analyze large biological data sets to identify patterns that can indicate a predisposition to diseases like cancer.”
Thursby said she selected the University of New Mexico doctoral program because unlike many other science programs, it offers a teaching certificate program that supports her goal of becoming a college professor. Many science programs bypass a master’s degree in favor of a doctoral course of study.
Thursby said she drew inspiration from many professors at Highlands, with biology professors Jessica Snow and Ben Nelson influencing her the most.
“In the biology department, I took several laboratory courses with Dr. Snow and Dr. Nelson that developed my skills as a scientist and inspired me to ask more questions. Whether I was transforming bacterial cells with a gene coding for fluorescent protein with Dr. Snow or dissecting a cow with Dr. Nelson, their enthusiasm displayed during these classes encouraged me to work hard,” Thursby said.
Thursby said her experiences with Snow and Nelson inspired her to pursue teaching and researching at the college level.
“I want to display the same kind of enthusiasm and mastery of concepts for my future students,” she said.
Snow said she is confident in Thursby’s abilities and motivation.
“I am delighted that Megan will pursue her Ph.D. in the same program that I completed at UNM,” Snow said. “Megan is incredibly inquisitive and tenacious. She will excel. I think she would thrive in many ways in academia. Megan loves dialogue and the continual learning that we get to engage in in an academic setting. I think she would make a great professor.”
At Highlands, Thursby was a supplemental instruction leader (SIL) for the university’s Achieving in Research, Math and Science (ARMAS) Center, where she assisted algebra-based-physics students.
“During my senior year, Eli Mohanna at ARMAS hired me to be an SIL,” Thursby said. “Eli was more than a boss to most of us. She helped me with everything from making a cool activity for my students to proofreading my graduate school applications.”
Thursby, a 22-year-old from Chesapeake, Virg., said that when she went to college, she left everything she knew and loved 1,800 miles away.
“I was intimidated at first, but Highlands provided me with a home. As a first-generation college graduate, I had to learn the ropes in real time and everyone in the Highlands community was there for me when I needed help. Highlands and Las Vegas will always hold a special place in my heart,” Thursby said.
One of Thursby’s most vivid college memories is from being in Guatemala with the past president of the university’s International Service Group as part of the group’s delegation in June 2018 during the deadly Fuego volcanic eruptions.
“When we started helping sweep the Antigua streets of ash we felt like part of the community because we worked side-by-side with storefront owners,” said Thursby, who was the lead organizer for the mission, which also included volunteer work in a residential hospital for special-needs children.
Outside the classroom, Thursby suited up for the Cowgirls as a catcher on the softball team, earning All-America Scholar-Athlete honors.
“I am grateful for every second I spent as a student-athlete at Highlands,” Thursby said. “Softball gave me the opportunity to get a higher education while playing the sport I love with the team that became my family.”