#ElonGrad 2021 spotlight: Grace Garrett, biology

In this series, Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences is shining the spotlight on distinguished members of the Class of 2021 from a wide array of disciplines.

Elon College Fellow and Lumen Scholar Grace Garrett ’21 found herself on a campus surrounded by nature and wanted to combine that a subject that would satisfy prerequisites for medical school, so she chose to major in biology.

Garrett is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi and Beta Beta Beta honor societies, and Alpha Xi Delta sorority.

Tell us about your research experience.

My research studied the gut microbiome and its influence on hormones and fertility in zebrafish. I knew I wanted to work with my mentor, Associate Professor of Biology Jennifer Uno, based on her mentoring style and her research topic, the gut microbiome. Independently, I also had a passion for reproductive health and was able to integrate the two. I presented a poster of my research virtually at the Experimental Biology national conference and gave an oral presentation at Elon’s SURF Day.

What about your Elon experience makes you proudest?

All of my achievements at Elon stem from giving myself room to develop my passions, values and beliefs unashamedly. When I entered Elon as a first-year student, I allowed other people to dictate my course, not wanting to rock the boat. Standing up for my interests and what was important to me opened a whole new world of possibilities. Developing the courage and boldness to take that stand is my proudest accomplishment during my time at Elon.

Did a relationship with a mentor or professor make a significant impact on your college experience?

Dr. Jennifer Uno is my research mentor and advisor. She has contributed exponentially to my growth in confidence, scientific skills, and personal development. It was especially important to me when choosing an advisor and mentor to have a female role model who I could look to and see management of career and family, as society expects working women to still take the majority of family responsibilities. Learning from Dr. Uno and other female faculty has taught me an egalitarian partnership is critical to success in both realms.

What are your future plans?

Following graduation I will be joining the National Institutes of Health as a Postbaccalaureate IRTA (research fellow) at the D.C. Partnership for HIV/AIDS Progress, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. During my second year of work there, I will apply to medical school. My ultimate goal is to become a physician.

What advice would you give future Elon students?

Two pieces of advice. First, form relationships with all your professors, regardless of whether you think their class is related to your future career field or not. I cannot overemphasize the wealth of knowledge and life experience they have to impart to you and the opportunities they provide for your growth.

My junior year I took my core capstone, entitled “Rome,” seemingly unrelated to my professional goals. Associate Professor of Classical Languages Kristina Meinking was my professor and at her encouragement I flourished, engaging in intriguing literature on interests I had previously shut down for fear of embarrassment. Her support during that semester gave me the confidence to pursue this topic as a meaningful area of research, which I now could see myself incorporating into my medical career.

Second, step outside your comfort zone. It will open doors to opportunities you hadn’t known existed.

What’s your favorite Elon tradition?

My favorite Elon tradition is the luminaries. Everyone is gathered together with treats and there is an atmosphere of hope for what’s to come in the new year.