Three Biochemistry students find fit in veterinary schools

Ashley Payne, Megan Bache and Rachel Stahl in the Rickey Science Center

Growing up on a farm in the western part of Washington County, Ashley Payne ’17 (Watertown, Ohio) has been caring for animals almost her entire life.

On a particular day when she was in junior high school, she noticed one of the family pigs was sick.

“I thought that penicillin would help him, so I grabbed him by the back legs and gave him the injection,” Payne said.

From that moment there was never a doubt of her career path.

“I wanted to be a veterinarian,” she said.

Payne also heard about the difficulties of getting into veterinary school, but she was never deterred.

“I’ve had people telling me since I was a little girl that I wouldn’t get into vet school,” she said. “When people tell me I can’t do something, well, it makes me want to do it a little more.”

Payne is not alone. She’s one of three Marietta College Biochemistry students who have been accepted into a vet school for the fall. Payne will attend Purdue University, while Rachel Stahl ’17 (Oley, Pennsylvania) is going to The Ohio State University and Megan Bache ’17 (Westland, Michigan) will attend the University of Missouri.

“It is an impressive accomplishment,” said Dr. Kevin Pate, McCoy Professor of Chemistry. “It’s rare for us to have that many students at one time with the goal of becoming a vet, but they are shining examples of how a Marietta College education can prepare you for anything.”

With just 30 veterinary schools in the U.S., it can be challenging to get into a program — especially on a first attempt. However, all three students believe their experiences at Marietta played in a role in helping them gain admission.

Stahl said she feels more than prepared to take on the challenges she’ll face at Ohio State in the fall.

“Our classes are rigorous,” she said. “The professors aren’t pushing you through, they are pushing you in it. It’s not a graduate course load, but there are definitely graduate expectations. Professors at Marietta want you to thrive in your major. I remember when I got a lab paper back and I got a 7 out of 10. The professor stopped me after class and said, ‘I hope I never see this from you again.’ It wasn’t mean-spirited. It was meant to establish expectations and prepare me for the future.”

Stahl has worked in Dr. Suzanne Parsons’ biochemistry research lab  since she was a freshman. She has aided in numerous projects, completed an Investigative Studies Summer Fellowship, and is the only senior in her major to perform an Honors Thesis project this year.

“She is a mentor to younger students in my laboratory,” said Parsons, who is a McCoy Associate Professor of Chemistry. “Her current Honors Thesis project focuses on analysis of the effects of glucose levels on the Wnt signaling pathway in cancer and diabetic cells. Rachel got the idea from this project based on summer internship and volunteer work at a veterinary office, where she worked with a vet to care for diabetic pets.”

Bache also had an opportunity to assist in Biology and Biochemistry classes at Marietta — something she said impressed the faculty at both Missouri and Michigan State during her interview.

“I talked about being a TA and how I had presented research at the American Chemical Society meeting,” Bache said. “They asked me about my research, but also my work in the McDonough Leadership program. This is what you are able to do at Marietta that you can’t do at other places.”

Bache and Stahl are planning to present their undergraduate research at the National American Chemical Society Meeting in San Francisco in April. All three students have developed a friendship and they compared notes as they applied and interviewed at schools.

At times, though, there was some tension.

“It can get very competitive,” Stahl said. “I think we were all concerned that one of us wouldn’t get into a program. We were all told that it was very unlikely that we would get in on our first shot. So for all of us to do this is pretty amazing.”

Payne originally planned to go to Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland because she felt it would better prepare her for vet school. But after moving into her residence hall, Payne knew it wasn’t the right fit.

“I decided to come back home and go to Marietta, but I wasn’t sure I felt it was good enough to help me get into vet school,” she said. “But by my junior year I was taking a lot of tough classes and I realized Marietta was always the best choice. I sat down with Dr. (Steve) Spilatro in my first week of microbiology and he worked with me on note taking.”

Bache had a similar experience.

“We have so many great professors at Marietta,” she said. “They go out of their way to help you. I’ve had multiple professors who are willing to come in on the weekend to do study sessions. They care about so much about the students and their futures.”

Parsons, who has been known to hold some of those special study sessions, has enjoyed having all three students in her classes over the past four years.

“I feel that they have acquired skills such as critical thinking, problem solving and scientific research analysis — to name a few — through active learning and inquiry based experiments,” Parsons said. “These skills should serve them well as they progress in their education and career. I am proud to have them as students and know that they will do well in vet school and beyond.”