McNair Feature Scholar: Meet Leah

I am a senior Honors student at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire majoring in Biology. In addition to my role as a student, I am also the current President and Club Representative of the UWEC Hwa Rang Do and Tae Soo Do Club, a Korean martial and healing art. Within this art, I am both a student of Hwa Rang Do and an Instructor of Tae Soo Do. In addition to my love for neuroscience, I have a passion for eastern medicine and ancient philosophy and spend a substantial amount of time with authors such as Lao Tzu and Descartes. When I can find time in my schedule, I enjoy swimming and ballroom dancing. This winter I will be traveling to Puntarenas, Costa Rica for a study abroad immersion where I will be studying Spanish and the dances of Latin America. In the spring, I will be completing my biology coursework at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute as a part of the Sea Education Association’s Marine Biodiversity and Conservation program. As a part of this program, I will be sailing a tall ship from the Florida Keys through Bermuda and back to Woods Hole to conduct research on a protected area of ocean known as the Sargasso Sea.

Starting in the summer of 2017, I began work as a part of the Honors Data Research Project alongside Dr. David Jones. This project sought to compile, sort and analyze student data from multiple sources into a comprehensive report on the efficacy of the EDI initiative as it pertains to the University Honors Program. EDI stands for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, and is a major part of the mission statement for the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. The first iteration of this project was focused on data analysis, and the results were presented at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research in April of 2018. I have continued my work on this project to further analyze the short- and long-term implications of the findings, as well as attempting to establish goals to improve implementation of the current initiative for future students through collaboration with faculty and staff both in and outside of the University Honors Program. These findings will be published in Astra-the McNair Journal at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in the spring of 2019.

After seeing the power of research to evoke change in policy and procedure both in and outside of the medical field has inspired me to devote my life to bridging the gap between research and the people its findings will affect in the future. After obtaining my PhD, I intend to pursue a career that best enables me to contribute, be that in a translational research laboratory or as a liaison to institutions that govern these practices.