Research your interests through graduate programs Science prof reflects on her graduate school experience and post-grad life at OC

By Lori Garman | May 08, 2017

Graduate school transforms you. Oklahoma Christian professor Lori Garman encourages those considering graduate programs to pursue their passions to the fullest extent.

For about five years of my life, my husband liked to tell people I worked on anthrax. I would immediately follow that with “Vaccination. I work on anthrax vaccination.”

During my five-year Ph.D. project in Immunology and Microbiology, I worked on the human immune response to vaccination. My study population was 3,000 military members – the only U.S. citizens required to take the anthrax vaccine.

Like most people who went through graduate school, I see those five years as an incredible challenge, but also as an experience that led to great personal and professional development. I learned how to design experiments, write grants and papers, network, and perform moderate-level statistical analysis.

Spend time exploring what potential careers exist for someone with a graduate degree in your field of interest. Realize you are in charge of your own education. Dr. Lori Garman

I also had a child during those years. I developed a “village” that helped me grow in my knowledge of my own ability. I learned, very importantly, that I was in charge of my own education.

As I exited graduate school, I realized a faculty position that includes research, service, and teaching is difficult to acquire. Many of my friends were turning to industry positions, like biomedical equipment sales, scientific writing, and even patent law.

I had multiple, high-impact job offers, including working for the Center for Disease Control. After working for a semester as an adjunct faculty member at Oklahoma Christian, I chose to stay at the university as a full-time professor.

Flexible Graduate Research at OC

OC encourages research in STEM fields through intramural funding, but active research is only a benefit, not a requirement, for tenure or rank for faculty. As a non-tenure-track professor, the research I perform is unlikely to impact my career trajectory and is mainly for my own interest.

My research is confined to the summers and it changes each year. I collaborate with other researchers through the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation and OC. The research focuses on genetics and rabies treatment. This summer, I’m working on student retention and its relationship to mental and emotional health.

Other consistent research at Oklahoma Christian includes toxicology research done by Dr. Bill Luttrell and genetics research done by Dr. Landon Moore. Dr. Amanda Nichols has performed research projects in Religion and Science and Dr. Chris Austin has done research in Science Education.

Pursuing More Than a Career

I encourage you to spend time exploring what potential careers exist for someone with a graduate degree in your field of interest. Realize you are in charge of your own education.

Don’t be afraid to pursue research at OC or at another university. You’re not limited to working in a high-profile career; the flexibility of a nine-month contract at OC has provided me with the time and energy to pursue my own interests.

If you choose to participate in the studies done at OC, I’ll gladly provide you with your own personal phrase to scare your friends: “I work with Dr. Garman. She works with rabies.”

Think graduate school can help you pursue your passions? At Oklahoma Christian, students are encouraged to pursue higher education and faith. OC offers graduate programs in Business, Engineering & Computer Science, and Theology. Want to know more? Contact us – we’d love to connect with you.