Shenandoah senior Abigail Pilcher ’21 will take her interest in biology, public health and mosquitoes to Yale University this fall as a student in its Master of Public Health in Epidemiology of Microbial Disease Program.
Pilcher will graduate this weekend with a double major in biology and public health and a minor in psychology. Interested in researching mosquito-borne illness, Pilcher applied to nine graduate programs and got accepted into all of them, including those at Johns Hopkins University, Cornell University, and Emory University. Yale was considered a “reach” school, but once she was accepted, Pilcher jumped at the chance to attend the renowned university, especially since its two-year master’s program offered a mix of both her majors.
I’m very excited. I feel that Shenandoah prepared me in a lot of ways for my future endeavors in graduate school. I had the great opportunity to learn from very knowledgeable professors who helped me develop important skills that I will need when I start my program in September this year.”
Abigail Pilcher ’21
Pilcher said her interest in vector-borne disease started during independent research with Assistant Professor of Biology Jeffrey Bara, Ph.D, during which they studied two different mosquito species, Aedes albopictus and aegypti, that transmit dengue virus.
In 2020, she began investigating with Dr. Bara the effects of essential oil exposure on the two mosquito species’ larval development and its impact on vector competency. The beginnings of the research focused on whether natural alternatives to synthetic pesticides would impact vector competency, but COVID-19 interrupted this research.
After Yale, Pilcher said she wants to conduct surveillance of mosquito populations that spread disease, such as dengue, malaria, and Zika. She said although she began her time at Shenandoah unsure as to what to major in, she is glad that the university gave her the opportunity to grow.
I appreciate Shenandoah allowing me to explore and discover my interests. I learned so much from people around me.”
Abigail Pilcher ’21