Rachel Sutton has always housed a driving passion for biology. The study of life and living organisms has always piqued her interest in tremendous ways. She knew that she wanted to pursue a major in biology once she graduated from McKenzie High School in McKenzie, Tenn. Picking the perfect college was a bit of a tough call. Bethel University seemed to be the obvious choice because of her mother’s faculty position there. Rachel did not want to have her mother as a professor—she wanted to spread her wings and face new horizons as an independent college student. She soon learned in her search for the right college that she could attend Martin Methodist College with a tuition-exchange because of her mother’s faculty position at Bethel, so she made the leap to attend Martin Methodist, finding that her life has been drastically changed for the better ever since.
It didn’t take Rachel long once she started at Martin Methodist to dive into her biology studies. At the end of her sophomore year, she approached Assistant Biology Professor Dr. Mark Chee about involvement with undergraduate research, and he proposed that she help him with a project that would run through the spring semester of her senior year. She eagerly agreed, and in Fall 2016, she began her research of the characterization of a novel species of Enterococcus bacteria found in a sick colony of flies at Duke University. She spent countless hours outside of class doing additional lab work and studying Enterococcus sp. and fruit flies, and these extended hours prompted her newfound love for scientific research.
With her new passion for research, Rachel began applying to summer research programs throughout the nation in order to expand her experience. After pushing out multiple applications, she was accepted to both the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and Auburn University. She chose to expand her research at UAB, one of the top tier schools in the nation. She spent the summer of 2017 engrossed in microbial research, and she attended various seminars to better her future in scientific research.
While knee-deep in biology, Rachel has also been leading the student body as SGA President for her junior and senior years. Once a shy girl, she opted to step outside of her comfort zone and join SGA while she challenged herself in her studies, and as a current senior looking forward to graduation just a short time away, she’s got an impressive college career at her back, with academic awards to show for it. She’s recently received an Outstanding Research Biologist award for her devotion toward her undergraduate research over the novel species of Enterococcus bacteria and the Alpha Chi award, which represents the Alpha Chi National College Honor Society for juniors in the top 5% of their class and seniors in the top 10% of their class.
“Thinking back on it, I don’t think I would have been able to embark on this journey without the help of the faculty and staff at Martin Methodist,” said Rachel. “The faculty and staff here are one of a kind; they offer constant encouragement and challenge students to work hard and strive for greatness. Had I not been pushed by my mentors to step outside of my comfort zone, I would not have had the courage to apply for nationally competitive summer research programs. Because of Martin Methodist, I know I’m prepared for what lies ahead after graduation.”
Rachel graduated Summa cum Laude from UTS (formerly MMC) on Saturday, May 12, 2018.