REDDING, Calif.—Simpson University’s graduating class of 2018 includes nine biology students, whose future interests range from pharmacy school to clinical laboratory scientist to infectious disease research and more.
The fact that all nine are women – in a field sometimes dominated by men – doesn’t strike them as particularly notable.
“We are in the 21st century, and I’m grateful for it,” said Julianna Gilson, 22, of San Juan Capistrano.
“It’s honestly something I never thought about before, but I think that everyone in our class will be going on to do great things in their careers,” said Molly Smith, 28, of Redding, who plans to apply to a clinical laboratory scientist program.
Classmate Katie Weber, 23, of Redding, noted, “(We) had the privilege of growing up in a culture where women have access to and are encouraged to pursue higher education.”
Weber plans to work as a natural science educator at Turtle Bay Exploration Park in Redding and continue in the field of science education.
“I think our graduating class sets an example,” she said. “I hope that we not only encourage more women to consider careers in science, but we also inspire young girls to discover more about the world around them, asking questions and staying curious.”
Curiosity, a love of learning, and a desire to understand how things work were common reasons why these students picked biology as their field of study.
“I was the kid that would ask ‘Why?’ to everything,” said Rebecca Chapman, 21, of Burney. “Biology has not only answered many of my questions, but it has also opened my eyes to see just how crazy the world is.”
Chapman participated in the Biology Club at Simpson for four years, including serving as treasurer and secretary.
“I chose biology because of my fascination with the unseen world and how things work together to cause life,” said Jessica Dager, 22, of Shingle Springs, Calif. “It has taught me discipline and humbleness.”
Dager balanced the demands of the biology major with a traveling schedule as a member of the Red Hawks softball team, which won the NCCAA championship her freshman year. She also helped lead the university’s First Year Experience program for a year.
Rachel Last, 21, of Grass Valley, said studying science expands her theology. “Learning more about science also shows me how big God is,” she said. “I learn more about the Creator by studying his creation.”
Last and two of her classmates, Gilson and Corinne Schali of Cottonwood, were selected to present biology research this spring at the National Council on Undergraduate Research’s annual conference in Oklahoma. The trio worked on identifying microorganisms that thrive in the acid drainage of Shasta County’s Iron Mountain Mine and also presented methods Simpson biology students are using to stimulate those organisms to neutralize the acid, to clean up the mine.
That research experience will be valuable to both Last and Gilson (pictured left in an interview with KRCR-TV), who plan to pursue graduate studies and research in immunotherapy or epidemiology and infectious diseases. Schali plans to go to graduate school to become a physician’s assistant.
“My professors have gone above and beyond to meet with me when I have questions and have also become mentors and resources for my graduate school pursuit,” Last said.
Her classmates echoed her sentiments about the support they received from their professors, as well as the advantages of Simpson’s class sizes.
“The smaller class sizes allowed a sense of community among the students and professors, which made it a much better learning experience,” Smith said.
“Simpson’s biology program is unique because of the relationships the faculty intentionally build with their students,” Gilson said. “The faculty here are deeply invested in the lives and education of students.”
Learn more about Simpson’s biology program at simpsonu.edu/biology.
Simpson University, established in 1921, is a Christian university offering undergraduate, graduate, and teaching credential programs. The university celebrated its 25th year in Redding and the completion of a Science and Nursing Center in 2014. Academic programs include ASPIRE, a degree-completion program geared toward working adults with both on-campus and online course offerings; the Betty M. Dean School of Nursing, A.W. Tozer Seminary, the School of Education, and the School of Graduate Professional Studies. For information about the university, or to arrange a campus visit, call 1-888-9-SIMPSON or visit simpsonu.edu.