Taylor - Lea

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EC Scholars Class of 2016

Lea Taylor

Hometown/State: Faison, North Carolina

Incoming EC Scholar Class: 2012

Scholarship(s) Awarded: Bate Special Funds

Major/Intended Major: BS Biology/BA Chemistry 

Why did you choose to attend East Carolina University?

The most important factors in my college decision were the atmosphere and the strength of programs.  To address the first, East Carolina University has the most welcoming and hospitable atmosphere of any college I have visited.  When I first visited campus, I immediately fell in love with the faculty and staff; they were so friendly and helpful!  Everyone at ECU has an immense amount of school spirit, which speaks volumes about the strong community found here. More importantly, I knew that I would receive a strong academic foundation at ECU and felt I could successfully accomplish all of my academic endeavors here.

What has your scholarship enabled you to do?

This scholarship has relieved the financial burden of attending college and has also presented me with many incredible opportunities. I have had the wonderful experience of studying under distinguished faculty members and alongside intellectual, driven students. I have been presented with a wide array of opportunities that would not be afforded to me at any other university, such as extensive networking, service, leadership, and undergraduate research opportunities. This scholarship also enabled me to study abroad in Gamboa, Panama this summer, which was an experience of a lifetime! I studied terrestrial tropical ecology and got the amazing opportunity to explore the rainforests of Panama and all of the biodiversity they hold within them. I am so grateful for the scholarship and look forward to taking full advantage of every opportunity that arises in my final year of undergraduate study.

What special undergraduate research opportunities have you experienced at the university?

I have been working in Dr. Hvastkovs' lab in the Department of Chemistry for several semesters, and was fortunate to receive an URCA grant to fund our project. The purpose of this research project is to identify damaged DNA adducts from exposure to benzo[a]pyrene in a key sequence of the TP53 gene.  This gene codes for the p53 protein, which is frequently mutated in cancers.  Previous and current research in the Hvastkovs lab is aimed at generating a biosensor to detect DNA damage at specific DNA sequences via exposure to bioactivated metabolites. Identification of the damaged DNA adducts will aid in validating the electrochemical biosensor signal, confirming that it occurs as a result of the DNA damage and not another factor. I am very grateful to Dr. Hvastkovs for allowing me the incredible opportunity to learn from him and work in his lab.

What unique leadership opportunities have you experienced at the university?

For the past two years, I have been presented with numerous opportunities for leadership. In the freshman colloquium and the sophomore EC Scholar course, I was able to learn about leadership and community engagement. My peers and I then took that knowledge and applied it to different community projects, allowing us the opportunity to be leaders instead of just learning about leadership. I also had the opportunity to co-chair the Honors Ambassadors Recruitment Committee for two semesters. This experience allowed me to be a leader among my peers and within the Honors College.

What are your career plans/aspirations?

My ultimate goal is to obtain an M.S. in Occupational Therapy from ECU and work as an occupational therapist in North Carolina. I have explored many different healthcare settings, but am really leaning towards an acute inpatient rehabilitation setting or home health. I have grown to love the geriatric population and become especially sensitive to their needs through my volunteer experiences over the past few years. However, I am keeping an open mind so that I do not miss out on any opportunities or other potential areas of interest! My main goal in life is to help others live life to its fullest, regardless of disabilities, disorders, or other life circumstances that prevent them from doing just that.

What extracurricular activities have you participated in during your time at ECU?

In regards to student organizations, I have been involved with the Presbyterian Campus Ministry and Honors Ambassadors Recruitment Committee. I think it is important to get involved on campus in a few organizations that you are passionate about! However, I am most involved in volunteer service at the hospital. I also had the opportunity to take an EMT-Basic course this summer and am looking forward to volunteering as an EMT with a department just outside of Greenville later this year. 

How have you made a positive impact while you have been at East Carolina University?

There are so many opportunities to make a positive impact, especially with service being a huge priority at ECU. I have been an activities volunteer and therapy volunteer at Golden Living Center, and have helped coordinate service projects with other Honors students at the Ronald McDonald House of Eastern NC and Food Bank of Central and Eastern NC. Since the summer of 2013, I have been volunteering in several different capacities at Vidant Medical Center. Volunteering at VMC has given me the unique opportunity to form personal relationships with patients and staff and really make a positive impact there. I am so grateful for these service experiences and look forward to continuing to serve at Vidant Medical Center throughout the school year. ECU and the Greenville community offer a plethora of opportunities for students to get involved and make a positive impact. I would certainly encourage all students to find something you are passionate about, and then discover a way to serve the community in that capacity!

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