Ten years ago, UMR Biochemistry Associate Professor Cassidy Terrell was completing her PhD in biochemistry at the University of Texas, Austin. But while she’d started the degree planning to pursue an industry career in drug discovery research, she gradually realized that her heart was leading her down another path.
“I was a teaching assistant for every single semester, including summers,” Dr. Terrell says, “and that was my happy place. That was where I found the most purpose and joy – interacting with students, helping them with their coursework and trying to understand the concepts.”
Now, a decade later, Dr. Terrell has been awarded tenure at UMR after turning down two offers for tenure-track positions at other institutions. UMR, she says, clearly stood out over her other choices. She was drawn to UMR’s focus, the high-impact practices and tenured faculty doing research in student learning while still teaching in their disciplines — and she was drawn to the quality of the students.
“They are so ready to engage,” she says of her students. “Organized, very driven, motivated. They get it. Being at UMR means you’re getting skills in addition to content knowledge. In order to succeed in classes, they have to rely on each other. There always needs to be an awareness that every class is active, engaging and collaborative.”
Dr. Terrell is passionate about supporting women in STEM subjects. “Part of it is representation,” she says. “I want to give what I didn’t have. I went into graduate school, into a department where every single faculty member was male. For me, it’s about showing by example that as a woman in STEM, in biochemistry, who came out of a very male-dominant department, you can persist and succeed. You can get the grants, you can get the job, be the chair of the committee and you can have that seat at the table. I know you can, because I’m sitting at the table.”
While Dr. Terrell loves inspiring her students to see the wonder of the molecular world and participate in science, she also encourages them to find other joys outside the world of STEM. “Being successful in this role doesn’t mean it’s the only thing I like,” she says. “I’ve had students surprised to learn I like to go kayaking or I’m obsessed with plants and I like clothes. Some students think that to be a scientist means you only read scientific publications and spend all your time doing research and never struggle with these tasks. I do these things, and I do struggle with them, but it’s not all my time. I have many identities besides science. No one identity is all encompassing.”
Read more stories from the Fall 2022 Alumni Magazine: The Kettle.