Alumni Spotlight – Leah Thornton
Leah Thornton – Alumni Spotlight
The College of Science & Engineering traditionally is a place yielding open doors to students, and small class sizes to allow for meaningful and educational relationships between faculty and students. One graduate student saw the fruits of her hard work and own research opportunities through her recent achievement in the first university-wide Three Minute Thesis® Competition.
Leah Thornton, biology graduate student, placed first in the 3MT® competition this spring. A native of Birmingham, Alabama, she completed her undergraduate career at Miami University of Ohio, in addition to competing as a student athlete in swimming. She has exceeded her own personal expectations and goals thanks to the supportive faculty in the Department of Biology, and her mentor, Marlo Jeffries, assistant professor of biology.
“I have known Dr. Jeffries a long time, and I would be lying if I said that she wasn’t one of the greatest mentors that I’ll ever have in my life. She somehow saw potential in me that I didn’t even know I was capable of,” says Thornton.
The two first met at Miami University, where Jeffries worked as a post-doctoral researcher in the same lab as Thornton. Jeffries was soon offered a position at TCU, and described her positive experiences with Thornton as she considered her next step in higher education.
“I came on a visit, and wasn’t disappointed. Everyone I’ve come in contact with at the University is always so genuine and willing to help,” Thornton said.
Thornton’s interest in teaching and academic settings was heightened after she conducted her own research project and began presentations at various conferences.
“Having a research project that I can call my own has been extremely rewarding, and I have always been proud of the recognition I have received for presentations. The ability to share research and ideas in a meaningful way is really the crux of what scientists do,” Thornton said. “As for the 3MT, I am so happy it happened this year. Personally, one of my favorite things about being a scientist is presenting my work. I think that presenting forces you to take a step back to look at the big picture. The 3MT competition is particularly challenging because it truly forces you to choose your words carefully.”
She ultimately hopes to acquire an academic position and will attend the University of North Texas in the fall to begin a doctorate program in environmental science after a few academic travel trips. Thornton will travel to Tronheim, Norway, and Kazakhstan to assist with field research and workshops for the assessment of environmental contaminants.
“My experience at TCU has given me room not only to grow as a scientist, but also to develop my skills as an instructor. The professors here have demonstrated tough love when I need it, and made sure I am put forth my best work to achieve the greatest potential.”
Article by Andrea Hein, digital content/marketing coordinator