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Meet the December 2020 Grads: Maryssa Beasley

Students from the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences will  celebrate Commencement virtually on Saturday, Dec. 19 as they graduate from  West Virginia University, ready to take on the world.

As Commencement is upon us, several of our Eberly College graduates reflect on their time at WVU and their plans for the future. Meet December 2020 grad Maryssa Beasley. 

Name: Maryssa Beasley 
Hometown: Akron, Ohio 
Degree Program: PhD, Chemistry 

How did you choose your major?

I completed a bachelor's degree in forensic chemistry from Ohio University and was interested in continuing to apply chemistry to solve real-world problems at WVU. I was originally attracted to only analytical chemistry, but WVU provided me the opportunity to combine both analytical and physical chemistry to study the behavior of proteins that cause neurodegenerative disorders.

Maryssa Beasley presenting research

How would you explain your major to an incoming student? What advice would you give them?

As a PhD student, the curriculum can really be built and personalized for each student, so it is challenging to describe my specific major. I personally combined analytical, computational and biophysical chemistry courses to really guide my research. I would advise incoming graduate students to pursue every opportunity to personalize their path through the program to truly apply their passions and research to the area. For example, I was interested in the research performed by two advisers in the department, and when I expressed this interest, I was offered the opportunity to join both labs and combine the two research focuses into one project.

How has your major prepared you for your future career?

While PhD research can be rather specific, I feel like I learned numerous techniques – both in the laboratory and study techniques for the classroom – that I can apply to succeed in the field. This program taught me critical thinking and problem solving that I was able to apply when I wrote my proposal for The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine Research Associateship, which led to being offered a postdoctoral position at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory.

How has your Eberly College/arts and sciences education helped you prepare for unexpected circumstances, like the pandemic?

The process of scientific research can often be unpredictable and challenging, but my experience in the chemistry department at WVU has taught me how to potentially predict, respond to and problem solve unexpected results or situations.

What are you looking forward to after graduation?

I am mainly looking forward to the next steps in my career. I am moving to Washington, DC, where I will soon start my postdoctoral position at the United States Naval Research Laboratory.

Maryssa Beasley with research poster

How have you changed since your first year at WVU?

I feel like I am a much more confident scientist now. No scientist is going to be an expert in every subject, but I feel very confident in my knowledge of my field and finally feel that I can apply my knowledge and my research to truly make a difference.  

What was your most memorable moment at WVU?

My most memorable moment was definitely my dissertation defense. My defense was nothing how I imagined it would be, and it was entirely virtual and during a time when I had not been in lab for months. However, my friends, family and committee members made it an enjoyable experience that was still exciting despite being virtual.

What was the hardest (Eberly College) class that you loved? Why?

My hardest course was definitely the Molecular Spectroscopy course taught by Dr. Fabien Goulay, because I was missing a course in my undergraduate career that I should have taken as a prerequisite for this course. However, through the help of Dr. Goulay and the rest of my classmates, I was able to push myself and really catch up with the material. It may have been my hardest course due to a lack of background knowledge, but I also felt the most accomplished when I finally understood the material. Hard work paid off!

Dr. Legleiter's research lab

Do you have a favorite professor or instructor in the Eberly College? What makes them special?

Personally, my favorite professors at WVU were my advisers Dr. Justin Legleiter and Dr. Stephen Valentine. Joining the labs of Dr. Legleiter and Dr. Valentine was truly a blessing, and I am grateful that they provided me the opportunity to develop my skills as a researcher and grow as a scientist. Because of the mentorship of my advisers, I was given the unique opportunity to combine my love for analytical chemistry with my growing curiosity for physical chemistry. I will forever cherish the intellectual and thought-provoking discussions I got to have with them both. Most people are lucky to have one adviser like them, and I was fortunate enough to have two.  

What will you miss the most about WVU after you graduate?

I will miss the environment of collaboration at the University. If there was ever a research question we posed but did not have the instruments or materials to answer, there was always someone interesting in collaborating and working on the problem together. The collaborative environment truly allowed us to work on research projects with truly impactful results.

We recognize that life is topsy-turvy right now because of the COVID-19 pandemic. How are you planning to celebrate graduation, even in nontraditional ways?

Everything being virtual has its positives and negatives in this case. Many of my closest friends from undergraduate now live in different parts of the country, so they would not have been able to attend a graduation celebration in person. However, we are now planning a large virtual celebration that everybody can attend! I cannot wait to celebrate this accomplishment with all of my closest friends.