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McNair Scholars ready for graduate school

  • Several of the students in the McNair Scholars program pose for a photo in the student services building.

Posted on January 01, 2017

Maybe it's unusual for a geologist to play the French horn, but Brittany Ward found time for both her passions before graduating from Grand Valley in April.

Ward was among the 11 McNair Scholars to graduate in the 2015-2016 academic year. The federally funded TRIO program works with students who are the first in their family to attend college and meet a federal income criteria, or are from underrepresented ethnic backgrounds in doctoral programs. 

All McNair Scholars plan to pursue doctoral degrees; the program provides them with mentoring, research opportunities, GRE tutoring and graduate school application assistance.  

Ward said it was an earth history course that spurred her to change her major from music to geology. Her McNair research project tracked the trends of past climates and their affect on global warming; Figen Mekik, professor of geology, was her mentor. Ward worked with Patrick Colgan, professor of geology, during her first summer as a McNair Scholar.

Through the program, Ward gave presentations on paleoclimatology at two national conferences and participated in Grand Valley's Student Scholarship Day. She also played French horn for the University Band. Ward was accepted into a graduate program at Boston College. 

Bikash Mishra will graduate from Grand Valley in December with a degree in biomedical sciences. He said participating in the McNair program helped to focus his future on medical research rather than medicine.

"I thought I wanted to be a doctor but through job shadows and lots of conversations with physicians I found out I liked more of the research side of medicine," he said. 

Mishra and his family immigrated to the U.S. from Napal when Mishra was in high school. He graduated from Grand Haven High School. He continues to work with faculty mentor Suganthi Sridhar, associate professor of biomedical sciences.

Darian Farrell worked closely with faculty mentor Kristy Dean, associate professor of psychology, on a research project that studied social exclusion and physical vulnerability. 

"We studied if being socially excluded causes someone to feel physical pain, and does it make them more risk-adverse," Farrell, who was voted Homecoming regent in 2015, said. 

She will attend Loyola University in the fall and said participating as a McNair Scholar boosted her application. "I hope to someday be a professor of psychology," Farrell said.