Wichitan Heather Clark will take a laboratory research position in St. Louis after graduation from Wichita State University.
Heather is one of more than 3,500 students eligible for spring 2021 graduation. Learn more about her time at Wichita State and what is next for the grad.
What degree did you earn?
Baccalaureate of Science in Biology with emphasis in biology/biomedical sciences and minors in chemistry and public health.
What is your hometown?
What led you to Wichita State?
I started interning the summer at Wichita State in Dr. George Bousfield's laboratory to complete my Associate of Applied Science and Associate of Sciencein biotechnology from Manhattan Technical College and Butler Community College. I knew my options would increase if I took the time and finished my bachelor's before pursuing a career in the biotechnology field however, I was finding it difficult to commit to the idea. In the fall, Dr. Bousfield allowed me to enroll in undergraduate research in his lab while working on completing my internship hours. I was enrolled full-time. I sometimes joke if I had known then what I was getting into, I wouldn't have taken the plunge.
After that first semester, I decided I had come too far to quit. The opportunity to remain in Dr. Bousfield's lab working beyond my internship and undergraduate research hours has helped keep me motivated to finish what I had started. It has been a joy and privilege to be mentored by Dr. Bousfield and his research team while participating in their research.
How are you feeling leading up to graduation?
Excited and nervous about what new adventures are to come and a little overwhelmed by my growing list of to-dos to be done in a short amount of time. My family is growing up. Only one of my five children will be relocating with me so there is the excitement of things to come and knowing the distance will be hard at times.
What has been your most helpful learning experience while a student at Wichita State?
First on a personal level: To reach out for help. Life happened and I didn't think I was going to be able to finish what I started. There is a lot of caring and amazing people at Wichita State. With their support and resources, I was able to persevere and get to this point of completing my bachelor's degree.
Second, academically and professionally: Dr. Bousfield's lab. I continued to work in Dr. Bousfield's lab after my internship. He and his team have been amazing. I gained valuable experience participating in actual ongoing research. My confidence increased as I continued to develop and broaden my laboratory skills and applied new knowledge from my courses.
What was been your biggest challenge as a student, and how did you overcome it?
I had two large challenges. First, I have a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Many days, most would never know it. Cognitive fatigue is a real issue and the symptoms that present when my brain is tired can be dramatic. I have had to build cognitive and physical stamina since the first day I started on campus.
Second, Organic Chemistry 2. I knew career-wise it was important to focus on learning the material. It had been 27, 28 years since I had taken Chemistry 1,but I had an A in Chemistry 1 and didn't want to retake it. It took me three tries, being chased in my dreams by carbo-cations and a few tears, but I did it. Trio Disability Support Services had a student taking the same class as me, my third try... she agreed to be my study buddy! Between resources through Disability Services, TRIO DSS, my children, a handful of dear friends, perseverance and twisted humor I have made it through!
What are your plans after graduation?
I found a laboratory research position in St. Louis, so, I will continue learning and working without the stress of exams. I hope to have more free time to explore new hobbies and interests as well.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your time at Wichita State or your post-graduation plans?
COVID-19 helped me because quarantine gave me more time to tackle Organic Chemistry. Instructors were recording their lectures; I was free to watch as many times as I needed to get the information. I love the pause and 15-second rewind buttons when trying to take notes. While I miss in-person interactions, I have benefited from not having to rush across campus or to leave home when classes meet virtually.
What advice would you give other Wichita State students?
Grades are important, but more important is the knowledge and understanding you take with you. Take time to process and understand what you are learning and its applications to life. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.