In this series, Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences is shining the spotlight on distinguished members of the Class of 2020 from a wide array of disciplines.
An Elon College Fellow, Sophie Erlich ’21 followed her interests in plant science and human health into a biology major. She was named the Department of Biology’s Outstanding Student of the Year in 2020-21.
“Sophie is a true delight to have in class,” said Assistant Professor of Biology Erin Bernardy. “She is always engaged, intently listening, and asking thoughtful questions. She gets so excited about material that she shares with her friends both within and outside of the science discipline. She routinely shared with me that she blew her friends minds with the information she learned in class.”
Erlich is a recipient of the Presidential Scholarship, Reddish-Morgan Biology Scholarship, a member of Tri Beta (BBB) Biological Honors Society, served as Biology Club president, and was a new student orientation coordinator at Elon.
“The biology department at Elon is very welcoming and fostered a wonderful learning environment for me that made picking my major an easy choice,” Erlich said.
Did you participate in undergraduate research?
Undergraduate research was one of my favorite Elon experiences. My research was titled: “Investigation of Medicinal Properties of Crassocephalum crepidioides.” I worked with Associate Professor of Biology Linda Niedziela for two and half years creating our project to evaluate the biochemical activity of the plant Crassocephalum crepidioides and how this plant impacted the learning and memory in adult zebrafish. I chose this topic because of my interest in plant medicine and Dr. Niedziela’s expertise in animal behavior and zebrafish work.
What is your proudest accomplishment while at Elon?
My work as a student coordinator for New Student Orientation is one of my proudest accomplishments. I was able to safely lead the campus in an in-person orientation experience during a global pandemic with an incredible group of leaders. New Student Orientation has been an incredible home for me at Elon for three years, provided me with incredible leadership training, personal growth, and fantastic relationships.
How did your relationship with Dr. Niedziela enhance your Elon experience, further your goals, or help you grow?
Dr. Niedziela, my research mentor, has been one of the most important people in my Elon career. Not only has she guided me through my Elon College Fellows research project, she has also guided me through all of my academics and career planning goals. Without her support since my sophomore year, I don’t think I would be the proud biologist that I am today. She taught me the joys and thrills of conducting research and she also taught me the valuable lessons that come with making mistakes and being adaptable to unforeseen situations.
Dr. Niedziela helped me look into graduate school and connected me with friends and colleagues to further my career. She has been a wonderful listening ear and a wise mentor that has helped me reach for the stars and accomplish my wildest dreams.
What are your future plans?
After graduation, I will be moving to Boston to attend Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in their SM Environmental Health program for the next two years.
What advice would you give to future Elon students?
Take advantage of every opportunity. The opportunities available at Elon are basically endless, and there is so much room for growth in every opportunity on this campus. Become the leader, scientist, or artist that you want to be. Elon is a special place.
What’s your favorite Elon tradition and why?
College Coffee! I love being able to, number one, get free coffee every Tuesday and, number two, connect with old friends, staff, and faculty. Physically, Elon is beautiful and that alone makes it special, but the people on this campus are what make it outstanding and exciting, and bringing those two aspects together every Tuesday, makes Tuesday the best day of the week.