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Anna Johnson ′11

Anna Johnson

Hometown: Homewood, Alabama
Major: Biology, Spanish
Fun Fact: “If I have free time, I’m probably dancing.”

You transferred to Rhodes in the middle of your sophomore year. Why the switch?
Initially I transferred for the athletics. I saw the Rhodes track and cross country teams, and they really impressed me. The athletic program here is awesome. But I also wanted a more challenging academic environment. The biology department is bigger here, and the classes are more intense. When classes are too easy, I get bored.

So what’s it been like so far?
Rhodes really encourages research. That is what I’ve liked. The second I got here, I immediately started research with Professor Jon Davis. He plugged me in and let me learn. He taught me how to put together a presentation, correctly do research, create a hypothesis and be successful. Now, I have a Rhodes Fellowship where I’m integrating concepts learned in class into my personal research, and I’m also helping lead a research project.

What’s your project?
We are working on blood parasites, comparing the parasites in urban and rural reptiles and trying to map out geographically where more parasites are prevalent. We presented at URCAS last spring, and this January we are going to a conference in Utah.

You’re helping lead your own research project, but we also hear you’re the captain of the track-and-field team. What’s it like to lead on two fronts?
I’ve only been here for a year and a half, but I got voted as the team captain this year. That really meant a lot. Even though I was new, I immediately fit in with the team, and they embraced me and chose me to be a leader. It is a privilege. Our team is nationally ranked. We won our track conference three years in a row. We won our region in cross country and went to nationals. We worked hard, and it paid off. Instead of being bossy, I just want to lead by example so we can continue that success.

What about after Rhodes? Rhodes is the springboard, so where are you headed?
My classes and research at Rhodes helped me realize that I want to do the M.D.-Ph.D. I cannot see myself doing just medicine or just research. With an M.D.-Ph.D. I can do both. They encompass everything I want to do. My ultimate dream would be to spend part of the day seeing patients in a clinic or hospital, then part of the day doing my own research with infectious diseases. My work with blood parasites in reptiles sparked that passion. I would love to discover something that would help the medical community.

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