Perry ’15 awarded prestigious Presidential Graduate Fellowship
Megan Perry ’15, a University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) student pursuing a Ph.D. in genetics, cell biology, and anatomy, was recently announced as one of six recipients of a Presidential Graduate Fellowship from the University of Nebraska.
The prestigious fellowships are awarded to a select group of NU graduate students each year on the basis of high academic performance and personal accomplishment. Fellows receive an annual stipend made available through the University of Nebraska Foundation that allows the students to pursue their studies full-time.
In a news release from UNMC, Dr. Susan Fritz, Interim President at the University of Nebraska says, “Our Presidential Graduate Fellows are among the best students at the University of Nebraska. They are accomplished scholars, inspiring mentors, and outstanding representatives of our campuses -- exactly the kind of young people who will lead the state forward.”
Perry, originally from West Point, Nebraska, graduated from Doane University in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in biology.
Among the wealth of her academic experiences at Doane, Perry was a teaching assistant for Dr. Tessa Durham Brooks’ anatomy class, which helped spark an interest in teaching, and subsequently, an interest in teaching graduate-level health science students.
“I realized that after I came to grad school that my critical thinking skills were matching up with some of the students that went to larger universities,” Perry says. “I wasn’t afraid to speak up and lead discussions and I think a lot of that comes from the smaller classes I had at Doane.”
“Megan was the kind of student every professor would like to advise,” Durham Brooks says. “She took every bit of guidance I gave her, considered it, and put it into practice. She was also a wonderful student to teach. She allowed me to push her academically and let me be a part of helping her see for herself what she was capable of.”
Perry, who had a minor in chemistry at Doane, says that the biology and chemistry departments don’t shy away from difficult concepts, which benefited her in her growth as a college student.
“They (biology and chemistry faculty) ask you to dig deep into tough things,” she says. “Whether it’s a hard biochemistry topic, evolution, or environmental science, knowing I’ve worked through difficult papers or data and that I was able to take something difficult, interpret it, and understand it, has been a huge benefit for me today.”
Dr. Sharmin Sikich, associate professor of chemistry at Doane, taught Perry in two classes and worked with her on a research project her senior year. Sikich says she is very proud of Perry’s accomplishments to date, noting her recognition as a Presidential Graduate Fellow does not come as much of a surprise.
“I remember the summer when she first was figuring out the methodology behind cloning a new gene into a plasmid,” Sikich recalls. “I was impressed that she didn't just follow all of the steps in the lab, but she took the time on her own to really understand it and be able to explain what she did. Many students will have a superficial understanding of what they did, but she wasn't satisfied with that and worked it out on her own. Megan was diligent, enjoyed the process of research, and was very coachable.”
At Doane, Perry was involved in Collegiate Chorale, Relay For Life, Gamma Phi Iota, and the Health and Medical Occupations Club (HMOC). She credits a great deal of her time management skills she dating back to her experiences at Doane when she had to quickly learn how to manage a full schedule of academics and extracurricular activities.
“Being actively involved at Doane helped prepare me so much,” Perry says. “I’m managing my own schedule, working in the lab, running experiments… I have my hands on a number of different things at all times. It’s pretty stressful getting a Ph.D. but being able to lean back on my time management skills are important.”
In her Ph.D. program at UNMC, Perry is in a teaching track in medical anatomical sciences education. Perry’s research is focused on DNA protein crosslink repair -- how a specific protein is regulated through protein-protein interactions, what specific cellular mechanisms there are to resolve DNA lesions, and how cancer cells respond to chemotherapy.
Perry has also been a Teaching Assistant in physical anatomy classes at UNMC for the last two years and has completed teaching practica with medical students as well. Next year she hopes to give anatomy lectures to physical therapy and physician assistant students, which would include some former Doane students, many of whom she has connected with.
“I’ve been a TA for some former Doane students in PA, PT, and medical school,” Perry says. “I see a lot of familiar faces at UNMC. If I go to the cafeteria sometimes I feel like I’m back at the Doane cafeteria.”
“Doane isn’t just a place I was at for four years,” Perry adds. “It has had a large impact on me and hopefully I made some impact on Doane as well.”