Makayla Callender is a class of 2022 chemistry major. I spoke a little about Makayla when I blogged about our collaborative paper with the Blackledge lab at HPU at the start of 2022; however, I’m not sure if I can express how grateful I am to Meghan for handpicking Mak to work on the Stk1 project in my lab. Her attitude, enthusiasm, and work ethic has been remarkable especially since the results did not align with our hypotheses. I was ecstatic to get to sit next to her at the faculty-student research panel during the inauguration of University of Richmond’s new president this spring. It is not surprising to me that she was awarded the Leslie Sessoms Booker Award for Westhampton College this year – the award is deemed the “good Citizen” award and no one is more deserving than Makayla. I have enjoyed watching Makayla grow in her love for chemistry, biochemistry, metabolism, and physical therapy and I know she will be able to weave all those things together in an unique way in the future. 

Let’s hear from Makayla as she reflects on her experiences:

1. Why did you decide to join the Pollock lab?

Mak: I learned about Dr. Pollock’s lab from a visiting professor, Dr. Meghan Blackledge, who spoke with the SMART (Science Mathematics and Research Techniques) class about biofilms and their relation to antibiotic resistance. I joined the Pollock Lab to work on their collaboration project investigating the protein receptor, Stk1, and potential antibiotic adjuvants.

2. What was your favorite part about your research experience?

Mak: I think my favorite parts of research were those “scratching head moments” in which we were confused about the data. But, it was having to re-run experiments again and again that really taught me patience and gratitude for the process of scientific exploration. As a result, when we had “aha moments”, I could really appreciate all the work that went into figuring out the story.

3. What do you plan to do after graduation?

Mak: After graduation, I will be taking a gap year working as a post bacc or a physical therapy technician while applying to physical therapy schools and some physical therapy dual degree PhD programs.

4. As you reflect back on your time at University of Richmond, what advice would you give to an incoming student who was interested in your career path?

Mak: My biggest piece of advice is to stay open minded and follow your passions. In my time here, I took classes in many departments and explored numerous opportunities like research. Not for the purpose of checking off a prerequisite checklist, but because I would be interested in the topic or task. As a result, I have not only figured out a career path that fits my unique goals and interests, I enjoyed my time at UR and experienced tremendous personal growth.

Makayla – Thank you for pulling me back into the world of antibiotic resistant bacteria (I had a time in grad school where I worked on it but have focused mostly on inflammation and cancer for my career). Your enthusiasm for research and your perseverance when the science didn’t tell us what we wanted is remarkable. I can’t wait to see how your career path unfolds. For my own selfish reasons, I’m hoping the next step keeps you at UR for the year 🙂