Laryssa D. graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology and works as a researcher and scientist at USDA
Albert Einstein once said, “Life is like riding a bicycle—to keep your balance, you must keep moving.” That quote sums up my time here at Schreiner University. It has been a long ride with several obstacles and detours along the way. I have been discouraged and weary, overwhelmed and exhausted, and I constantly questioned the path I was traveling on. However, throughout each obstacle and detour, my very own personal trainers were there to help me maintain my balance. They pushed me to my limits, encouraged me to keep traveling and pointed me in the right direction when I lost sight of the path. The Schreiner University faculty members, especially the science professors, have been those personal trainers focused and committed to helping students succeed.
I never would have imagined that my discussion with Lesa Presley, instructor of my cell biology lab, would be when my ride uphill would begin. After expressing to her my concern regarding my future she recommended that next semester I take a religion class called, “Leading Lives that Matter.” Without any doubt or hesitation, I gratefully accepted her advice and registered for the course the following semester. Within this religion course we explored what it meant to live a balanced life and explored our personal beliefs, both in faith and in our career choice. One of our assignments was to interview a professional that currently worked within the career field we were interested in. The Rev. Gini-Norris Lane, campus minister, matched us up with either a faculty member on campus, or an individual within the community that we would interview. I had the honor of interviewing an amazing woman, Kristie Schlechte. Kristie is a biological science lab technician at the USDA Knipling-Bushland U.S. Livestock Insects Research Laboratory in Kerrville. My interview with Kristie was exactly what I needed to hear—this inspirational woman provided me with a completely new perspective on maintaining a balanced life.
As the summer was creeping up on me, I frantically searched for an internship to fulfill my degree requirement. I applied to several summer research programs at universities and unfortunately got denied by all. Although discouraged from this setback I refused to give up. I decided to send an email to Kristie, the woman I had interviewed, and ask if there were any internship opportunities available at the USDA. Kristie told me she would look into it for me and a week later I received an email back: she told me they would be more than happy to have me as an intern; however there was no budget available for a paid internship position. I gladly accepted the volunteer internship position and started a few weeks later.
My experience at the USDA Knipling-Bushland U.S. Livestock Insects Research Laboratory is indescribable. Not only was I able to take the knowledge gained from classes and labs and apply it to professional research; I also had the opportunity to learn about an entire new realm of science I had never explored. I was able to explore the field of cell biology in which I was certain I was interested in, but more importantly I discovered my future. After doing rotations between the cell biology lab and two different entomology labs, as cheesy as it may sound, my heart had found its home within the study of medical entomology. The research was extremely engaging—the purpose, the techniques and the applicableness were everything I had been searching for.
After six months of counting horn fly eggs, running PCRs, feeding sand flies and running bioassays, I had gained a remarkable amount of experience that had positively impacted my life in so many ways. My experience at the USDA changed my decision on what graduate program I wanted to pursue. It also changed my outlook on science, but most importantly the experience had a personal impact on me. In October 2013, I was asked a question that I would have never expected to hear. I was asked to be hired as an official biological science technician for the USDA. I accepted the offer and will be starting my work in the Sand Fly lab starting in December 2013.
The finish line is only a few yards away, and when I turn around and look back at how far I have come I see Schreiner University at the crux of the path—it was most enjoyable obstacle of them all. As I turn to face the finish line, I am now able to see my future—a future full of success and bliss knowing that everything behind me is exactly what brought me to where I am today.