Courtney Swain: Honors Council President and STEM Student

Courtney Swain is academic goals! As a sophomore biology major in the Kugelman Honors Program, she takes on leadership position on campus that she’s passionate about and makes time to conduct research, too. Recently, the Honors program elected her as their council president for the coming fall semester. We at Her Campus UWF decided to ask Courtney a few questions to get to know how she does it all!

Her Campus UWF: What made you interested in STEM?

Courtney Swain: I really didn't become interested in STEM until high school when I took physics during my freshman year. Although the coursework was very intensive, I loved the concepts. My interests led to joining my high school's robotics team where I eventually work my way up into becoming the Head Builder and captain of my team.

As sad as it sounds, I didn’t notice my potential in STEM until I finished high school and started really thinking about my future. Eventually, my interests in STEM slowly transitioned from robotics to medicine. Out of all the sciences I’ve taken, I enjoyed biology the most and made that my major coming into UWF. I knew by the time I finished my first semester at UWF that I truly loved STEM and that I wanted to pursue a career in medicine and research.

Photo courtesy Courtney.

As you can see, I'm not the usual poster child that has always had the dream of becoming a doctor or scientist ever since I was 5 years old. However, being a STEM major at UWF has allowed me to explore different avenues through many resources such as research, conferences, and my coursework. And through all my experiences thus far, I know I want to become a physician-scientist and leader in medical research and practice in a field of pediatrics in my future.

HCUWF: What were all the leadership roles you've had on campus? Any one in particular that was your favorite?

CS: I am currently the Historian for the American Medical Women Association UWF chapter and I am a mentor and the Fundraising Co-Chair of the UWF Honors Council.

I am also a MARC (Maximizing Access to Research Careers) Scholar, a program for underrepresented minorities interested in pursuing research careers and I am a mentor within the program. In the past, I've been an intramural sports referee for multiple sports. Although I enjoy all my current and past leadership positions, I particularly enjoy my time as a leader within the UWF Honors Council. The community of the Kugelman Honors Program is very welcoming and the opportunities given to me for my professional and personal development is extensive. My current leadership positions within the council has allowed me to learn my strengths and weaknesses and to grow as a leader overall. And ultimately, my experiences within Honors has led to one of my most outstanding achievements in my undergraduate career: being appointed Honors Council President for the 2017-2018 academic year.

HCUWF: How does it feel to be Honors Council President?

CS: I am tremendously excited to be the Honors Council President for the next academic year! I did not envision myself in this position and I am truly appreciative to have this opportunity to not only continue to grow as a leader but to also lead my peers and assist them in achieving their leadership goals. I hope to make my time as president a very memorable one and to continue to bring diversity to our honors council and leadership.

HCUWF: What is your favorite thing to do in Pensacola? On campus?

CS: As a non-local, it was pretty hard for me to get around Pensacola to see what the city offers. But so far, I love spending time downtown whenever I get the chance.

If I'm not in the library or in my research lab in Building 58, I enjoy attempting stay fit and healthy by going to the gym a couple of times a week.

HCUWF: What research have you done and what was your favorite?

CS: I've worked on a few research projects during my two years as undergraduate student so far. My first research experience started during my second semester at UWF through the Office of Undergraduate Research Explorers Program.

Through the program, I got to explore research in various fields such as epidemiology and cell biology. This program gave me the opportunity to contribute and become an author for a publication about HIV treatments in Kenya.

Courtney presents her research. Photo courtesy Courtney.

This past summer, I was able to secure an internship at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, where I conducted research in bone marrow cancer. My summer project consisted of studying what goes on in bone marrow when a certain gene (that is associated with bone marrow cancer) is deleted.  As of right now, I currently do cell biology research where I observe the effects of various medicinal ingredients on white blood cells.

This summer, I will be able to lead and teach other undergraduate students new lab techniques within our lab. I am also excited to start an independent research project this summer where I will be studying very commonly prescribed atypical antipsychotics (prescribed for schizophrenia and other mental illnesses) that are known to severely weaken our immune system. I can’t really label one of my research experience as a favorite since each experience has contributed to my interest and passion to go into medical research in my future career.

HCUWF: Anything else you’d like to share?

CS: As one of the only few in my family to pursue higher education, I didn’t know that my life experiences would lead me to where I am today and where I hope to go in my future. I want to inspire those who haven’t discovered their potential or calling to keep exploring until they find it. Through my accomplishments so far, I’ve learned that if you set your mind to that goal in mind, you will meet your goals and accomplish more than you expected despite the challenges and boundaries you may face.

Thumbnail courtesy of Courtney Swain