Leah Keeffe ’19

Phoo of Leah Keeffe ’19

Name: Leah Keeffe ’19

Hometown: Shutesbury, Massachusetts

Academics: biology major

Campus involvement: Deeper Than Skin (Asian student group), Counseling Center Post-Doctoral Search Committee (spring 2017) and the Neurodiversity Student Association (NDSA)

A place or experience you will miss at Mount Holyoke: I lived in the residence hall known as 1837 and I have many fond memories of studying in my room, playing music and hanging out with friends. The sunsets are also spectacular. I love seeing planes streak the sky against a pink, orange and yellow backdrop.  

Proudest accomplishment at Mount Holyoke: Presenting a paper on the research that I had the honor of conducting in Michele Markstein’s lab at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Interning in this lab was an incredible experience. I studied the impact of chemotherapeutic drugs in stem cells in the model organism Drosophila melanogaster — fruit flies. Back on campus, I prepared to present my research as part of my Lynk funding requirements. Craig Woodard, Christianna Smith Professor of Biological Sciences, met with me each week to help me. I wrote a paper and assembled the presentation, which I gave in front of his lab.

Thank you, Professors Markstein, Woodard and Amy Frary (my advisor), and graduate students Olivia Williamson and Kristopher Kolbert, for all the effort you put into helping me. Thank you also to my colleagues at the Markstein lab.

How a close connection with a faculty member has shaped you: Amy Frary, cochair of biochemistry, has been extremely encouraging and supportive during my time at Mount Holyoke. Amy is an amazing advisor. She has gone above and beyond in supporting me. I really appreciate her sense of humor and her level of dedication towards teaching.

Course that surprised you, or that you thought you might not like: Religion and Science Fiction. It was taught by Amina Steinfels and I loved every second of this class. My peers were bright and quirky and thought outside the box. We learned about many topics spanning from Afrofuturism to reading “The Three Body Problem” by Liu Cixin. I composed a final research project about a contemporary Asian television series and how components of different religions and themes surfaced in it. I studied the evolution of the Shinigami (死神), the Japanese God of death; Jeoseung Chasa (저승사자), reaper figures in Korean folklore; and the Mudang (무당), or shaman. I also included elements of “The Analects of Kongzi” (known in English as Confucius) and components of Laozi’s teachings of Daoism. I wish that there were two parts to this course!

Best takeaway from internship or research experiences: I learned that it’s OK not to know everything, and that I really like research. Being curious will get you far.

Favorite Five College experience: Being able to conduct research in Michele Markstein’s lab at UMass Amherst was my favorite Five College experience. Not knowing something is embraced there, and we are encouraged to research it, expanding our curiosity. There are no limits. Learning is infinite. In addition, my colleagues and I helped high school students participating in a UMass Amherst pre-college program with their research. At first, I was a little nervous about teaching, but I kept at it and was rewarded with the students’ excitement.

How Mount Holyoke has shaped your global outlook: I really appreciate Mount Holyoke College’s diversity. As an international adoptee, I love meeting other people who were also not born in the United States.

Future plans: I will be working for the Vermont-based NorthWoods Stewardship Center in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife this summer. My long-term goals are to release a CD, to be a physical therapist and to help people who have less than me.

Additional comments: I am a transfer student from Landmark College in Putney, Vermont. I started at Mount Holyoke in August 2016. I would like to thank my team at Mount Holyoke College, my team at Landmark College, and my friends and family for supporting me.