Student credits TJC for setting her on a path to being a research scientist

This is the second in a five-part series celebrating Women in STEM Month.

TJC has been the starting point for many women who have gone on to successful careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Some are just finding their place in the STEM world. Others have graduated from TJC and are busy blazing trails of their own. We salute their accomplishments and thank them for setting the pace for future women who aspire to professions in the STEM arena.

Micah Leary knew she would major in a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) field, but she wasn’t sure what specialty to pursue until she found her passion at Tyler Junior College.

“I had taken a wide range of classes hoping that one would spark my interest: biology, chemistry, physics and calculus,” she said. “As a last resort, I took anatomy and physiology this semester, to see if I wanted to go into the medical field — and it was that class that actually inspired me to go into cell and molecular biology.”

That realization led Leary not only to her major, but it also brought into focus her career goals, which then pointed to her chosen transfer school.

“After graduating from TJC in May, I plan to transfer to Texas Tech to get my bachelor’s degree in cell and molecular biology,” she said. “Then, I plan to pursue graduate work, get my Ph.D., and do my own research and eventually publish.”

She continued, “I think this field is so interesting because you’re looking at things like neuron regeneration and being able to express and repress genes in your DNA. And it’s just incredible because when you’re looking at science at the smallest level, there are things we still don’t understand — but it’s really cool because we’re learning things about our own bodies that we never knew before. Those things are what revolutionize medicine and cutting-edge research. So, I’m not sure exactly what my career will look like, but I really love science and I definitely see myself in a research field.”

Leary gives TJC high marks for helping her prepare for her future, both academically and personally.

“I grew up in Tyler, so I was always familiar with TJC,” she said. “Besides being much more cost efficient than immediately going to a four-year university, it also allowed me to receive and offer support to my family. Also, I have never felt as much support from my professors and advisors as I do at TJC. Anytime I have ever had any questions at all, they are always really helpful and give me great advice.”

In addition to her studies and working a full-time job, Leary is also active in several campus organizations, including the Alpha Omicron Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, and serves as chapter president; the TJC Honors Program; the STEM club; and the Green Committee.
Along with her family, Leary lists TJC professors Gigi Delk, Dave Funk, Dr. Andrea Hathcote and Dr. Jennifer Parsons among her major sources of support.

“If not for their influence during my time at TJC, I wouldn't be the person I am today,” she said. “Each of them has pushed me to fulfill my highest potential, and I will always look up to them even after I leave TJC.”

She continued, “I can’t stress enough how prepared I feel to move forward in my academic career. Every STEM class that I have taken has been challenging and has always held me to high standards, and I feel confident that I am prepared to handle anything that could come my way in the future.”

For more information on STEM programs at TJC, go to TJC.edu/EngineeringMathScience and TJC.edu/ProfTech.

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