There’s a phrase that’s become popular over the past two years, emblazoned on T-shirts and bumper stickers, and in the lexicon of strong-willed women everywhere: “Nevertheless, she persisted.” This phrase could be used to describe Meagan Collins, who will graduate Saturday with bachelor’s degrees in biomedical science and psychology.
Collins came to Lynchburg from rural Sutherlin, Virginia, just three years ago, armed with an associate degree she earned while in high school. While attending Lynchburg, she worked 20-to-30-hour weeks at J. Crew, along with a second on-campus job as an assistant in the psychology lab. She’s also worked as an archives assistant and Peer Assisted Supplemental Study (PASS) leader.
She’ll tell you that it’s been difficult, but worth it. “Working throughout my college career has allowed me to pay for my education and work toward my goals,” she said. “I have certainly learned to value my educational opportunities and appreciate what I have worked so hard for.”
During her senior year, Collins was part of the “Research Dream Team,” a trio of psychology students who studied the effects of exercise on anxiety, using zebrafish as test subjects. Last year, she studied the effects of L-DOPA, a drug used to treat Parkinson’s and other diseases, on zebrafish.
Her familiarity with the striped, guppy-like fish will be beneficial when she heads to Montreal this fall to pursue a doctorate in neuroscience at McGill University. There, she’ll study under Dr. Myriam Srour, a pediatric neurologist who uses zebrafish to research congenital mirror movement disorder.
“[She’s] identified a lot of the target genes that contribute to that disorder,” Collins said. “I’ll be looking for more target genes while I’m in graduate school. … I liked the idea of working in her lab and getting to use zebrafish as model organism. Getting to use [them] to look for target genes in a peculiar disorder was really interesting.”
It wasn’t all work for Collins at Lynchburg. She also had the opportunity to travel, going to Vietnam, Cambodia, and South Africa on a trip led by English professor Dr. David Lipani. “He really inspired me to travel more and helped instill my appreciation of other cultures,” Collins said. “I would have never considered going to graduate school abroad if it were not for my experiences studying abroad with Dr. Lipani.”
This summer, before she starts graduate school, she’s headed abroad again. She’s going to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. “It’s the number one thing on my bucket list,” she said.
When Collins walks across the stage at Commencement, she won’t just be receiving two well-earned bachelor’s degrees, she’ll also be making family history. “My father is a unit manager at a local prison and has worked in corrections his whole life,” she said. “My mother did not graduate high school and has always worked as a waitress. I am the first person in my family to attend and graduate from a four-year university.”
She added, “Coming from rural, southern Virginia, where opportunities are fairly limited, I found my place to shine at University of Lynchburg.”