After graduating Eckerd, alumni do not have to travel far to find science jobs. With many research laboratories in Florida, and Tampa Bay specifically, former Eckerd students are able to find job opportunities near The Sunshine City.
One of these alumni is Claire O’Connor, who graduated this past May. Originally from Denver, O’Connor majored in the molecular track in biology, with minors in chemistry and psychology. Aside from academics, O’Connor was involved with the American Society for Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, a part of the TriBeta honor society and was a chemistry and biology tutor at Eckerd.
Now, O’Connor puts what she learned at Eckerd into practice, working at the Tampa Bay Research Institute, an immunology laboratory in Pinellas Park. O’Connor’s research lab is run by two principal investigators studying the immunological relevance of certain molecules in pinecones.
O’Connor received the research assistant position in October 2019, but turned down the job offer at first. Then, after returning home after Eckerd’s campus closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, O’Connor realized how much she missed the St. Petersburg area. She then decided to go back and accept the job, leading her to where she is today.
O’Connor said Eckerd prepared her pretty well for her career now. However, she said that it would be hard for Eckerd to prepare students for every specific aspect of working in a laboratory setting.
“What I’ve realized is that when you get into a specific lab, you’re getting into the really nitty gritty of that specific subject and it would be hard for Eckerd to prepare you for all the types of labs,” O’Connor said. “I think by having research opportunities available for students as undergraduates, it gives you a good opportunity to see what it’s like in a research lab.”
Danielle Atkins believes that Eckerd’s academic program prepared her extremely well for her career now. Atkins also graduated from Eckerd with the Class of 2020, with a degree in marine science biology track and a minor in Spanish.
Originally from Philadelphia, Atkins knew that she did not want to return to a cold weather climate. Currently, she works at the Mote Marine Laboratory in Summerland Key as a coral health and disease intern.
“There’s no normal day, really,” Atkins said in regards to her daily work life.
From extracting coral DNA to monitoring water quality in samples, Atkins has many hands-on tasks at her job.
During her time as an Eckerd student, she traveled to Ecuador, Cuba and the Bahamas, doing hands-on learning and preparing her for the rest of her life. Along with academics, Atkins was also the Director of Outreach for the Marine Science Club for three years and was a student ambassador.
O’Connor and Atkins say they miss Eckerd, specifically pointing out academic interactions and opportunities.
“Take your time and enjoy it because it’s going to go by really quickly,” O'Connor said. “I would also say not to put all your eggs in one basket.”
Atkins advises students to take every chance they get.
“Do everything, always. Do it now,” Atkins said. “Take any opportunity and go. I don't care what that is, if it’s academic, social, you name it, just go.”