Smith ‘23 is currently working as lab technician at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “Haverford enabled me to gain independent research experience in an encouraging environment that nurtured my curiosity and allowed me to appreciate the interactions between science, medicine, history, and society,” says Smith.
While at Haverford, Smith participated in the Translational Research Immersion Program (TRIP) and had the opportunity to work in Dr. Elizabeth Bhoj‘s lab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which studies rare neurogenetic disorders. She also joined Prof. Robert Fairman’s lab to conduct her thesis that investigated the potential of Caenorhabditis elegans, a free-living nematode, as a model of TBCK syndrome.
Smith says she enjoyed many Haverford courses, and two standouts were “Critical Disability Studies: Theory & Practice,” taught by Professor Kristin Lindgren, and “Memoirs of Illness and Disability,” taught by Professor Carol Schilling. “These classes provided me with the opportunity to learn about first-hand experiences of patients and caregivers, while gaining insight into various illnesses and disabilities,” Smith explained.
Her work in various labs was a highlight of her education and she appreciates the self-directed research experience she gained through Superlab and her senior thesis. Despite having agency in these projects and the ability to conduct “independent” research, Smith says that she never felt alone. “I appreciate Haverford’s emphasis on collaboration, which is a critical but often overlooked element of scientific discovery and an essential life skill.”
Smith feels fortunate to have had research mentors throughout her undergraduate education. “Haverford enabled me to gain independent research experience in an encouraging environment that nurtured my curiosity and allowed me to appreciate the interactions between science, medicine, history, and society,” she shared. Inspired by her mentors, Smith plans to become a professor and mentor the next generation of scientists.
Smith recalls multiple opportunities that nurtured her passion for teaching. She was a mentor in the Mentoring and Student Teaching (MAST) program hosted by the KINSC during her first year, delivering science lessons and leading Philadelphia high-school students in hands-on laboratory activities. During the pandemic, she virtually tutored frontline workers’ children as part of the “Free for the Frontline” tutoring group. Smith also worked as a Bio115 teaching assistant and was a Writing Center tutor. “I’m so grateful that Haverford provided me with the opportunity to share my love of learning and science with others,” says Smith.
Looking to the future, Smith has plans to pursue a Ph.D. in cellular and molecular biology with an emphasis on neurogenetics. She also hopes to get more involved in patient advocacy and communicating science to the public. “As someone coming from a rare-disease family, I understand the importance of advocacy and aim to address not only the scientific challenges but also the societal challenges that these communities face,” says Smith. Her personal experiences have inspired her to help bridge the divide between patients, clinicians, and researchers.
Sharing well wishes for the Class of 2023, Smith says, “I hope that my fellow graduates find what excites them, what they can’t stop talking about, and what inspires them each day. I hope they find balance in their life and recognize the importance of self-care and care for others while they work hard to achieve their dreams.”
“Where They’re Headed” is a blog series chronicling the post-collegiate plans of recent Haverford graduates.