Alumna Profile - Ashley Zearfoss
Ashley Zearfoss

Alumna Profile
Ashley Zearfoss

When Ashley Zearfoss graduated from Coker College, she left with more than just a degree.

The biology and chemistry double major had developed a structured work ethic, an understanding of basic laboratory procedures and, perhaps most importantly, a passion for her work.

“When I start working on a project, I just can’t tear myself away,” said the Chesterfield, S.C., native. “I never want to leave the lab.”

Since graduating in 2008, Ashley has completed a research assistantship in North Carolina State University’s Department of Plant Pathology, earned a master’s degree from NC State and started working toward a Ph.D. in Clemson University’s Department of Genetics and Biochemistry.

“Most graduate programs have small class sizes that force students to interact with professors and with each other,” Ashley said. “I was well prepared for this because I had already experienced it at Coker.”

Ashley Zearfoss with Dr. Joseph Flaherty

At Coker, Ashley excelled in the research laboratory under the direction of Dr. Joseph Flaherty, Assistant Professor of Biology.

“Ashley was keenly aware of not only the immediate returns of personal achievement, but of the lasting impact she could exert both on her peers and the greater scientific community,” he said.

The work she completed at Coker provided important data for multiple grant proposals that were later funded. Ashley’s honors project served as the platform for the Fungal Genomics Initiative at Coker, funded by National Science Foundation. Discoveries from this project will be published in scientific journals with participating Coker students, including Ashley, as co-authors.

Ashley presented findings from her research projects at numerous conferences, including the South Carolina Academy of Science’s annual meeting in Clemson, S.C., and the American Phytopathological Society’s annual meeting in San Diego, Calif.

“All undergraduate students that have the opportunity to perform such high quality research feel inspired to do great work each time they walk into their lab,” Ashley said. “In turn, they are driven to set high goals and make important contributions.”

One of Ashley’s goals is to develop an understanding of the biochemical relationship between pathogen and host in an effort to control disease in plants, humans or animals.

Another one of her goals is to become a professor at a college similar in size to Coker, where she will be able to perform research with undergraduates and teach biology at all levels.

“I thank Coker for providing me with the tools I need to go far in my field and in life,” she said.


For more information, contact Ashley Simatic - 843.383.8018

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