Growing up as a young boy in rural South Carolina proved to be a lot of fun: exploring the woods with my dog, looking for snakes to catch, and shooting my BB gun was all in a day's work. My summers there were spent in the driver's seat of a beat-up Toyota truck and in looking over my papa's shoulder while he tinkered in his shop. I would spend time watching Steve Irwin's Crocodile Hunter and then go outside and try to play the part as best I could (South Carolina did not seem to have as many cool animals as Australia did). But for the time that I did spend in nature, it sparked a natural curiosity inside me for the natural world. That curiosity has continued to grow and be a part of me to this day.
Since that time as a young boy in South Carolina, I have lived in several different states and cities but eventually came to call Richmond County, North Carolina, home. Before moving back to Richmond County and attending UNC Pembroke, I lived in Miami, Florida, where I attained my A.A. degree while holding down various jobs. It was also in Miami where I met my beautiful and benevolent wife Alice, and now I am proud to say I have been blessed with two beautiful daughters, Abby and Sophie, with the latest addition to the family (Sophie) being born on New Year's Day 2016. Fast-forward to today, a month away from graduation, and I am utilizing the three simple elements I have utilized all along: family, school, and work. I cannot express enough how instrumental a role my family has played in my life and in helping me achieve the goal of an undergraduate degree; without their support I would not be in the position I am in now. Working and going to school full time, throughout my entire academic career, has not come without challenges, but through God and the unwavering support of my family and the faculty at UNCP, I am happy to say I will become a UNCP alumnus this May.
Why did you choose to attend UNCP?
Upon graduating this May of 2016, I will be a third generation alumnus of The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. So, at face value, it may seem like an easy explanation as to why I chose to attend UNCP. But the road that has led me toward graduating from UNCP has spanned four separate colleges and universities in two different states. I chose to attend UNCP because, just as was true of my grandfather and father before me, I am also a non-traditional student. UNCP understands what it means to be a non-traditional student and has been more than welcoming to both me and to my family. Deciding to attend UNCP has proved to be one of the most pivotal and fruitful decisions of my life.
What do you like best about UNCP?
UNCP offers so many different tools to get you on the path to success -- free tutoring, the Transition Office, and the Livermore Library are just a few of the many tools that I have utilized. But I cannot go without saying just how wonderful my professors at UNCP have been; their genuine enthusiasm for the subjects that they teach is contagious and has inspired me in both my academic and personal life.
Please comment on your research experiences
For the Fall 2015 and Spring 2016 semesters, I had the esteemed opportunity to conduct independent research with Dr. Marilu Santos as my mentor. Her passion for microbiology and her positive outlook on life have made a lasting impression on me. It was through her guidance that I am proud to say I was awarded a fellowship in the American Society for Microbiology’s Undergraduate Research Capstone Program, taking place in Boston, Massachusetts. Along with being a fellow in the program, I will also be presenting my research at the international, annual ASM Microbe meeting, also taking place in Boston. My research is focused on tracking the enumeration of Bifidobacterium and other gut microbes in an infant's digestive system. For this research, I was also awarded a Student Scholarship Support grant by the Pembroke Undergraduate Research and Creativity Center, and I will be presenting my research at the annual PURC symposium.
What are your post-graduation plans?
My primary post-graduation plan is to attain my MS Degree in Physician Assistant studies and to practice as a physician assistant in Richmond County or to serve in the U.S. Air Force as a physician assistant. After serving my county/country as a physician assistant, my ultimate goal is to graduate from a PhD program, concentrating in either biomedical sciences or molecular biology and to become involved in furthering the developments of modern medicine. While I have a deep passion for patient care, I am also passionate for understanding the science behind the medicine that affords the ability to provide that patient care.