by Web on February 11, 2016
When Kayla V. Pavlick enrolled at Millsaps College, she intended to pursue the pre-med track.
She changed her mind after her first field biology course, Bioterrestrial Arthropods.
“I fell in love with arthropods,” Pavlick said of the invertebrate animals that include centipedes, millipedes, spiders, mites, horseshoe crabs, scorpions, insects, and crustaceans. “I am now on track to attend graduate school and obtain my Ph.D. in entomological sciences.”
The work of Dr. Brent Hendrixson, an associate professor of biology at Millsaps who studies spiders and scorpions, inspired Pavlick to change her career plans.
“I assisted on an honors project that Dr. Hendrixson oversaw pertaining to the geographic distribution of tarantula relatives during the most recent ice age of North America, and I also conducted research dealing with species delimitation of scorpions in the southwest United States,” she said.
“For both projects we road tripped all the way to the southwest corner of Arizona and collected many specimens using basic field techniques. I learned about the geography and local ecology, and how it impacted our research. I saw how Dr. Hendrixson's profession worked outside of the campus setting, and that was a major part in my decision to acquire graduate degrees in entomological research.”
Pavlick, a junior from New Albany who is majoring in biology with a minor in neuroscience, intended to attend a private Christian university in Texas -- she had even paid her housing deposit -- when her mother convinced her to visit Millsaps.
“The personable faculty and staff at Millsaps made my visit so warm and welcoming and the financial aid package was generous,” she said. “The overall feeling of being on campus was perfect and still is.”
At Millsaps, professors take time to get to know their students, Pavlick said. She is grateful to Dr. Cory Toyota, assistant professor of organic chemistry, for pushing her “out of my mediocrity” as a freshman; to Hendrixson for being her mentor; and to Dr. Jan Jeffrey Hoover, an adjunct biology instructor, for “making learning fun and easy and because of his passion and enthusiasm for what he teaches.”
Pavlick said she’s become a more focused, disciplined student while at Millsaps.
“I have a sense of hunger for knowledge that I doubt will ever be satisfied,” she said. “Millsaps has instilled such a sense of pride within me that is incomparable. I can honestly say that I bleed purple and white.”
Pavlick has secured several internships off campus, including two at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., with Dr. Joe Pancrazio, professor and chair of the Department of Bioengineering, and also one in Wyllie, Texas at Equest Hippotherapy, which is known for its therapeutic riding program.
An H-B certified member of the United States Pony Club, Pavlick spends much of her spare time off campus at Blue Ribbon Riding Academy in Madison County, where she rides, trains horses, and teaches riding lessons.
A member of the American Arachnological Society, the Entomological Society of America, and MENSA, Pavlick already has had a taste of what it will be like to have a career in a classroom. She has served as a guest speaker for science classes at Highland Bluff Elementary in Brandon and New Albany High School in New Albany.
After she obtains a doctorate in entomology with a focus on vector ecology/pathology and puts some time into her career, Pavlick already knows where she would like to land.
“I would like to return to Mother Millsaps and take Dr. Hendrixson's position,” she said.