Abby is a native New Hampshirite and has spent most of her life in Hillsborough County. As a self-proclaimed "dead end, dirt road kind of person," a major part of why she chose Dartmouth was its familiarity and proximity to home. Abby said, "Dartmouth checked every box that I wanted in a graduate program," being in NH, having a phenomenal reputation, and renowned excellence in research yet feeling like a small, tight knit community. Above all, the largest draw for her was collaboration, "There's such a push and a culture for collaboration instead of competition," noted Abby. "I truly believe that so much more is accomplished through collaboration and access to each other versus the idea that if everyone is pitted against each other, it's a race."
Abby completed her undergraduate degree in biology at the University of New Hampshire at Manchester, where she commuted an hour each way. While at UNH Manchester, she was the president of tri-beta, the national honors society for biological sciences. She also participated in biology club, American Sign Language Club, and is a certified master tutor in biology. The year before entering the PEMM program, Abby was an adjunct instructor at UNH Manchester where she taught anatomy and physiology, microbiology, and chemistry labs.
When asked how she became interested in science, she said "I was a non-traditional student and I originally went back to school to get some sort of degree so I wasn't entry level. My second semester I stumbled onto a biology class because it fit my schedule at night with the kids and it gave me a language and a framework to start to answer so many questions that I had," she said. "I was in biology class and it started with botany and I remember thinking, I thought I knew what a tree was. A tree was simple and easy. Within 45 minutes into the class, my jaw was on my lap with how much I didn't know. I was really excited about this idea that I could study and learn more."
Abby talked about her non-traditional path saying, "I was an average student in high school. I got married right out of high school and had three kids and stayed at home and raised them. When my youngest…went into school, I realized that I had a high school education and couldn't see myself meeting any of my life goals with that. So I enrolled in a night class at UNH Manchester, a commuter school with a great reputation. Once I started, I was hooked. I couldn't believe how much information was out there."
Her passion for learning led her to take on every opportunity she could while at UNH Manchester, including research. She started on a microbiology-based prion project and moved to microbial genomics, really enjoying the rigor and structure of research, "There's frustration to it, but whether you get positive or negative results, you get information." When she got the opportunity work on translational pancreatic cancer research, she really found her calling, "Whenever you're dealing with human health and research it gives you an opportunity to talk to regular people. When you talk about cancer, that's a conversation for everybody, it touches everyone, so it gives you an opportunity to start talking about basic research. I'm really passionate about that intersection between basic science and society."
The research community of PEMM represents a combination of basic and translational research, which Abby is looking forward to, "It puts more emphasis on not just the collection of information, but what we are going to do with this information and how are we going to make this something that can help people." Further, she's really excited about the "smaller community within a small community" that is PEMM.
She has a very open mind when it comes to her research interests and goals mentioning, "In the broadest sense, I'd like to do research that combines basic, translational, and potentially clinical research, but I'm open to what that looks like. It might be cancer research, but it might be neurobiology. I'm really interested in exploring that during my rotations." Abby is completing her first research rotation in the laboratory of Dr. Todd Miller who studies novel targeted therapies for estrogen-positive breast cancers.
In regards to starting the program, Abby is most looking forward to wrapping her head around the experience and is excited about what surprises are in store. Despite getting most of her nerves out of the way in undergrad, she says "you always wonder if you're up for the challenge, and it's hard to look at something as big as a PhD program and feel like you have enough information to judge your ability, but I'm just excited to see where this goes."
Outside of lab Abby is a mother of three children, "I think my kids are the coolest people on the planet. Everything is centered around the kids. I just want to live my best version of enjoying the kids and this opportunity." Having lived only an hour south of Hanover, she and her family are used to the natural environment the Upper Valley has to offer, but they are "most looking forward to exploring it and figuring out where all the hidden spots are." She and her family love spending time in nature and can't wait to plug into the outdoor, healthy lifestyle surrounding Dartmouth.
Let's give a warm, Dartmouth welcome to Abby and her family!