#ElonGrad 2022 spotlight: Duru Tasman, biology

In this series, Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences is shining the spotlight on distinguished members of the Class of 2022 from a wide array of disciplines.

A recipient of the A.L. Hook Scholar-Athlete Award and the Coach’s Award with the Elon Phoenix Women’s Basketball Team, Duru Tasman ’22 also excelled in the classroom – particularly in biology.

This year, she was one of two recipients of the Department of Biology’s Outstanding Senior Award. This spring, she also was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa honor society.

After graduation, Tasman will pursue a doctorate in bioengineering at the University of Washington in Seattle.

What her professors said:

“Duru Tasman is an outstanding biology student. She performs at or near the top of her biology courses all while managing the challenges of being a varsity athlete. In addition, she pursued her intellectual curiosity outside of the classroom by participating in an undergraduate research project with former biology faculty member, Alfred Simkin. She used bioinformatics and computational biology to investigate repetitive DNA elements in fruit flies,” said Associate Professor of Biology Tonya Train.

“I have been impressed by Duru and her love of learning in immunology and molecular and cellular biology classes. She just loves learning. Even when she was in season for basketball, she put the time in,” said Associate professor of Biology Yuko Miyamoto. “I also appreciate how humble she is and how she helped her classmates in group assignments.”

What made you choose to major in biology?

I have always liked and was curious about biology since childhood. I would read news about the intersection between technology and biology, and wished to become like the scientists I read about. My major is biology with a concentration in biotechnology and molecular biology.

Tell us about your undergraduate research?

I did bioinformatics research on a specific gene’s molecular domestication among drosophila (fruit fly) genus with Dr. Alfred Simkin. I first met Dr. Simkin to learn about computer programming and its integration with biology as computational and programming skills are becoming critical within STEM fields and research. After learning how to program within a biological context, I wanted to further my computational skills and thought his research on molecular domestication was super interesting. This spring, I presented at the National Conferences on Undergraduate Research and at Elon’s SURF Day.

How did working with faculty change your career trajectory?

I worked very closely with Dr. Simkin throughout my undergraduate years for research and was also in his genetics class and lab. Due to this relationship, I gained a new skill, learned how to program in Python and realized that I wanted to pursue research after graduation.

What’s been the most valuable part of your time at Elon?

The relationships I built throughout my years at Elon with my professors, fellow students and team were the most meaningful and valuable parts of my undergraduate experience. My senior basketball game at Elon was a moment that summarized my undergraduate career as most of the biology professors that I had a class with came to see the game, and I was able to celebrate my student-athlete experience with my professors, team, and my friends as an international student-athlete majoring in Biology. I am particularly proud of my admission to the University of Washington Seattle to pursue a doctorate in bioengineering. It feels like a reward for the hard work I put in during my undergraduate years.

What advice would you give future Elon students?

My biggest advice would be to build genuine relationships with your professors as they want you to achieve your goals and help you throughout the process. Attend any events, clubs, or classes that interest you and meet with people different from you. Also, be curious and explore who you are or want to be!