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2022-23 Eberly Scholars: Marleah Knights

Major: Biology
Hometown: Morgantown, WV

  • Marleah Knights Profile Photo
  • Marleah Knights Biology Lab
  • Marleah Knights with family in front of Woodburn Hall

How did you choose your major? How has your major prepared you for your future career?

When deciding on a major, I had not decided on a specific career. Instead, I wanted to focus on what specific problems I wanted to address, and how I would help enact change. As a first-generation African American and an Appalachian, I was acutely aware that healthcare discrimination is a prevalent issue in our society, in which minorities and socially-disadvantaged individuals often receive less-than-optimal healthcare. I was also aware of how important meaningful relationships and communication with our healthcare providers are in achieving the best health outcomes. Following my passion, I realized that my career path would be in the field of healthcare. Therefore, I chose to major in Biology with a minor in Medical Humanities and Health Studies. This way, I could learn the science behind medicine as well as how to communicate this science effectively to my patients.

How would you explain your major to a new WVU student? What advice would you give them?

The best way to describe my major – Biology – is that it is the perfect choice for a student who loves exploration. There are so many subsets of Biology, from large-scale topics like Ecology & Evolution to the tiniest molecules in Cellular and Molecular Biology. And as a B.A., I had the opportunity to explore further with 4 semesters of foreign languages in addition to my science education. The biggest piece of advice I can offer incoming Biology majors is not to get tunnel-vision. If you know exactly what career you want to pursue from the beginning, that’s great! But take the time to explore – choose research opportunities that are outside of your comfort zone, or take on a community service project to try something new! So many students come into this major with one idea for their future, only to discover an entirely new passion, and this was my experience too!

What was your most memorable moment at WVU?

One of the most memorable experiences I have had is participating in the WVU Rural Undergraduate Shadowing Program. As a participant in the RUSH program through the WVU Institute for Community and Rural Health, I was afforded the opportunity to travel to Logan County, WV, a very rural county, to shadow a healthcare practitioner. During this experience, I hoped to gain insight into what it is really like to practice medicine in a real-world rural environment, and gain exposure to a sample workplace with personnel that may be very different from myself. During RUSH, I was able to shadow and receive mentorship from a nurse practitioner, Dr. Ellis, in the field of family medicine. It was incredibly meaningful to witness the relationships that Dr. Ellis had with her patients and trust and confidence in the care she provided strengthened my own desire to provide quality care. Likewise, I was fortunate enough to witness her role as a community educator, leading various activities at a local homeschool community. I was asked to speak to the students about my WVU experience, as well as supervise a suture lab for the students. Learning of the integral roles, clinical and educational, that rural healthcare providers can play convinced me of the multi-faceted nature of being a physician and solidified my desire to become a healthcare provider. 

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

One of my most challenging classes has been Human Anatomy (BIOL 345 and 346). As a pre-health student, learning about the human body is always an exciting experience. But Dr. Raylman is a fantastic professor from her in-class quips to her knowledge in the lab, and the class quickly became the most hands-on and engaging class that I have had in my time here at WVU. The lecture topics and lab dissections were complementary, which forced me to cross-reference and apply my knowledge from one part of the class to another. On the last day of class, we also took a field trip to the WVU School of Medicine cadaver lab to apply our knowledge in a new context. It was so rewarding to feel confident in my knowledge and to see these concepts at play in the real world.

Do you have a favorite professor or instructor? What makes them special?

For me, choosing a favorite professor would be absolutely impossible because I have had so many positive experiences within the Eberly College. However, some of my most positive experiences have been my undergraduate research positions with Dr. Rita Rio in the Biology department and Dr. Daniel Totzkay in the Communications department. Both experiences have shaped and continue to shape my passions for scientific development and scientific literacy and communication.

About Eberly Scholars

In association with the ongoing generosity of the Eberly family, the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences Advisory Board established the Eberly Scholars program in 1988. Each year, up to 25 students majoring in the arts and sciences are designated as Eberly Scholars. They are provided with scholarship support in recognition of their outstanding academic achievement. This award is the Eberly College’s most prestigious scholarship honor for undergraduate students.  

Meet all of this year's Eberly Scholars.