Sarah Marek, Biology and Chemistry, Class of 2019

Why did you pick your major?

I entered my freshman year as a biology major simply because throughout my whole life, I loved science. Coming into Quinnipiac and hearing about the biology major path, I loved the flexibility and freedom— there are loads of courses to take and I got to choose my own path as it pertained to my career goals. As a biology major, I was required to take organic chemistry where I found another family unexpectedly; after completing and loving every second of organic chemistry, I decided to become a double major in chemistry and biology. Having the ability to fit both majors in my schedule in my four years here has been one of my biggest blessings. The departments worked directly with not only with me, but each other, to satisfy the needs of each major.

Why do you like it?

An easy question, but definitely a challenging one to capture all that I hope to get across— the chemistry department is full of supportive, intelligent, and truly personable professors; with my small class sizes, I have been lucky enough to know many of them personally. While the classes are never a breeze, I was constantly being challenged to think in new ways and develop better, more efficient ways of solving problems. Chemistry, at its core, is the nitty gritty of everything on the planet— I can’t think of anything much cooler than that! Right off the bat, entering my general biology class I knew I found my fit. In biology, there are loads of courses to take and each course is jam-packed with new information and challenges. The biology department is incredibly warm, welcoming, and passionate about our common love of that good old thing called life. With both biology and chemistry lab components, I saw myself develop and grow alongside my peers into a stronger, more well-rounded scientist.

Do you have a professional field in mind?

Through my journey here at Quinnipiac, I have been considering a range of different paths— attending medical school, attending PA school, or obtaining my Ph.D to become a research professor. I have always pictured myself in working in a hospital and communicating with patients, but having had roles involving tutoring and hosting review sessions, I found a massive love for teaching. I am often reminded that teaching and health care professions are not exclusive, and in fact, often go hand in hand; so although I am not entirely sure where I am headed, I feel confident I can get there because of the experiences and encouragement QU has offered me since the beginning until the end.

What internships/research/experiential learning have you engaged in to help clarify areas of interest or prepare for life after QU?

Throughout my four years here at Quinnipiac, I have had plenty of opportunities that led me to where I am now. As a sophomore, I was able to work in a research lab with my anatomy professor, Dr. McGinnis, where I investigated the effects of a chemical called phenothiazine on fish. After this, I applied for an interdisciplinary summer research program at QU called QUIP-RS, in which I spent my summer sampling the Quinnipiac and Naugatuck Rivers in hopes of identifying any pollutants. Here I was exposed to new ways of approaching science— hands-on. Research is an environment full of challenges, learning, and mistakes but after that summer, I felt myself become a stronger part of the science community. In my junior year up to and including now, I have served as a peer fellow for organic chemistry; I attend each class and hold weekly review sessions to answer and ask questions or clarify material. I also am a peer facilitator for QSTEP, a grant funded program designed to enhance retention for students in the STEM fields. These roles, specifically, have shown me that teaching is something I hold close to my heart. Another incredibly important piece of my Quinnipiac career were my global solidarity trips to Nicaragua, a country that holds a very special piece of my heart forever. With my classmates and professors, I visited schools to teach science lessons, but also developed strong, lasting relationships with my host family and peers in Nicaragua. Together, these pieces have come together to help determine my path coming forward. Because of these experiences, I know that no matter where I end up, I am ready,  prepared, and smiling.

What advice would you give to a student considering your major at QU?

First and foremost— go for it! Of course, it’s perfectly normal to find that the major you initially chose is not the one to stick with, and plenty of people have changed their directions once, if not multiple times, throughout their undergraduate careers. But if you feel biology or chemistry is your fit, I can assure you absolutely can do it. As in all majors, there will be challenges and obstacles, but with the help of your peers and guidance of the faculty,  you will be many steps closer to your prospective career!

By Sarah Marek
Sarah Marek