Ashley wrote her thesis on the tobacco hornworm genome, took care of her younger brother, and competed in Miss Oregon. Photo by Matt D'Annunzio
Hometown: Hoquiam, Washington
Adviser: Prof. Sarah Schaack [biology 2011–]
Thesis: “Characterizing the Transposable Element Content of the Manduca sexta Genome”
What it’s about: I used bioinformatic tools to find the transposable elements in the tobacco hornworm genome. It was part of a bigger project with scientists from other schools working to map the entire genome.
What it’s really about: Using computer programs to find things in a huge genome dataset.
Who I was when I got to Reed: A straitlaced, well-behaved, overachieving high school student from a small town in rural Washington state.
Influential book: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is about the first human cells successfully cultured outside the human body. It raises a lot of questions about informed consent. Do parts of your body that doctors collect belong to science, or do they belong to you? Should you be compensated if the research ends up being profitable? It combines my love of scientific research and the medical, social, and legal aspects of health care and research ethics.
Favorite spot: The chapel lets you feel the history of Reed. It smells of old wood and is always quiet, cool, and soothing.
Random thoughts: When it comes to making health laws, there’s often a disconnect between those with a strong science background and those with a strong legal background. What’s needed is someone with a foundation in both areas, which is why I want to study law.
Cool stuff I did: Competing in four preliminary pageants for Miss Oregon made me more confident about answering questions and talking to people in the community. It gave me a break from school to practice walking in my heels, or to have someone show me the right way to flip my dress and smile at the audience. I also acted in The Vagina Monologues for three years and directed it twice.
How Reed changed me: I am more confident and calmer in my confidence. I’ve learned to prioritize tasks, choose my battles, and figure out what I want to excel at—putting energy into those activities rather than succeeding at everything.
Obstacles I have overcome: During my freshman year, my mother had a brain aneurysm, and she is currently mentally and physically disabled. I have held her power of attorney, been in charge of her care, and also raised my younger brother during his last two years of high school, sending him off to Eastern Oregon University.
Scholarships, awards, or financial aid: I would not be here without a generous financial aid package, and I’m so grateful. If you only select students who can pay for college, you miss out on the diversity and richness of experience.
Something I would tell prospies: Reed has more to offer than just a classroom experience, and Portland has more to offer than just Reed. Take the time to explore your surroundings—I guarantee it will be worth it.
What’s next: Northeastern University School of Law in Boston.