FSU Graduate Hopes to Leave Her Mark in Cancer Research

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Fairmont State University alumna Rebecca Goydel hopes to leave her mark in cancer research by continuing her education at the Scripps Research Institute in Florida.

Her vision for her future started while attending Wheeling Park High School. She wanted a degree in chemistry but also wanted to teach.

“When I spoke to my teacher, Ms. Adams, she said a simple sentence that changed my life goals, ‘Why don’t you pursue a Ph.D. so you can teach any level in the sciences?’ This moment was when I decided I was going to attend graduate school,” Goydel said.

But Goydel would have to earn her undergraduate degree first. After receiving the Charles J. McClain Presidential Scholarship from Fairmont State, the University’s most prestigious academic scholarship, she decided to become a Fighting Falcon.

While earning her bachelor’s degree in chemistry with a minor in biology with a biotechnology emphasis at Fairmont State, Goydel, a 2016 graduate, applied to the Scripps Research Institute. She had her mind set on the institute since watching the institute grow as a kid.

“When I was younger, my dad lived in Florida and I would visit each summer,” she said. “Part of my childhood was watching Scripps become a reality in Jupiter. Once I was older and applying to summer research programs, I knew that I wanted to go there, even if it was to experience it for only one summer.”

As a junior at Fairmont State, Goydel applied for a visitation weekend at Scripps and was accepted. She flew down to Florida for the weekend and was greeted with welcoming faces of students and professors.

During her time there, Goydel found a group of students focusing on using the immune system to treat cancer. She said Dr. Christoph Rader talked to her more about the research. She applied for the summer program and interned in Rader’s lab.

“The rest is history,” she said. “Once it came time to apply to graduate school, Dr. Rader and his graduate students helped me through the process. I felt I was a part of the Scripps family before I even applied for graduate school.”

Goydel said if it wasn’t for the help of those at Fairmont State prior to pursuing her graduate degree, achieving her goals in life wouldn’t have been possible. She added that times during her undergraduate career were stressful, but that her professors were there to answer any questions she asked.

“Pursuing a chemistry degree is difficult and extremely time consuming,” she said. “I feel that Fairmont State’s program prepared me very well for my next step. Many thanks to Dr. Steven Roof, Dr. Andreas Baur, Dr. Matt Scanlon and Dr. Erica Harvey for answering all of my questions (even when they were not related to topics in class), pushing me and encouraging me.”

Goydel said the hands-on experiences she had through Fairmont State have also benefited her.

“The hands-on experience in lab (at Fairmont State) was beyond useful for what I am doing now,” she said. “Techniques that I learned in lab and learning the reasoning behind the instruments is fundamental for what I am doing now.”

Having graduated from Fairmont State in 2016 and now enrolled at Scripps Research Institute, Goydel said she has changed her life goals a bit and plans to pursue a career in industry after obtaining her Ph.D. As for her specific focus in graduate school, Goydel said it will not be defined until later in her career but she is focusing on immunology, immunotherapy and cancer biology. Her ultimate goal is to leave her mark in cancer research and to work on innovative cancer treatments using the immune system.

“I enjoy being active in research,” she said. “In industry, I could work on a project in a lab and eventually move up to being more of the ‘brains.’ Later in life, I will still have the option to go into academia if I choose so.”