Meet an Alum

Abby Van Note ('15)

Why did you choose UNH? My first visit to UNH occurred on one of those beautiful New Hampshire spring days, the sun was shining, breeze was blowing, trees were in full bloom, and the temperature was perfect. After touring the campus I knew UNH was one of my top choices of schools. There was enough going on but the campus was not too big. There was a lot of green space on campus yet there still was community, small town feel. UNH seemed to have everything I wanted to school and the exclusive genetics program which is a rare major. As a student here, UNH has not only provided me with everything I thought I wanted but it has also exceeded my expectations and provided opportunities I never imagined of on that spring day that I first toured campus.

Did you know that you wanted to major in genetics when you arrived on campus?  After being introduced to the field of genetics as a sophomore in high school, I have known that I wanted to study genetics in college. 

After I arrived on campus this did not change, from Day 1 I have always been a genetics major. In my first two years at UNH I have quick thought about changing my major every now and again, but I know that genetics is what I really enjoy.

What was your favorite class? Human Genetics has easily been my favorite class at UNH thus far. The class was co-taught by Professor W. Kelley Thomas and Erika Stelmach, a practicing genetic counselor. The class was structured so that Professor Thomas would introduce a topic in the field of genetics during one lecture and then Erika would guide us through case studies relating to the topic we had learned the class prior. As an aspiring genetic counselor, it was intriguing to see what types of cases are seen in clinical settings. I also enjoyed being able to apply what I read in my textbook to actual, clinical case studies. The class reinforced my career choice as a genetic counselor and it energized me for the rest of my studies as a genetics major.

Which UNH faculty member had the greatest impact on you? I have had the opportunity to interact with so many impactful faculty members in my time at UNH. From philosophy professors to Intro to Biology professors every semester that I’ve been here I have had a professor that has impacted me in a positive manner. If I had to choose though, I would say Professor Erika Stelmach has been the most influential faculty member on me. She has shown me how what I’m learning in the classroom is going to be used in the real world, in my future as a genetic counselor. Erika was a great lecturer and present material in an interesting manner. She also has been extremely helpful as I plan on my post-graduate plans in the field of genetic counseling.

What activities related to your major have occurred outside the classroom that has been most beneficial to you? Outside of the classroom, working in a Dr. Kelley Thomas’ research laboratory at the Hubbard Center for Genome Studies has been the most beneficial activity. I received a Research Apprenticeship and Experience Program (REAP) grant after my freshmen year. I had the opportunity to spend 10 weeks during the summer after my first year studying DNA methylation in Caenorhabditis elegans. From an early time in my college career, I have been able to apply what I am learning in my classes to research and hands-on experiences. This has not only enhanced my understanding of concepts I learn in class but it has also given me an advantage for further biological science classes and experience for graduate school.

Describe something non-academic about which you are passionate: I’m a sport person, I love everything about them-playing, watching, refereeing. 

Coming to UNH, I struggled with not playing competitive sport but I have found that UNH still has competitive sports to offer even through I’m not a Division 1 athlete. Intramural Sports through Campus Recreation have been my opportunity to play sports competitive. I now work for Intramurals in addition to refereeing youth and adult soccer in New England. I love that I have been able to balance my love of sports and my love of science while at UNH.