PhD student Amy Schade is grounded in logic, open to serendipity

May 20, 2019
amy schade

Being grounded in logic but open to serendipity has made all the difference for Amy Schade, a PhD candidate in the Division of Medical Sciences Virology Program, who is graduating this month. Certain from a young age that she was going to be a history teacher and debate coach, Schade said she made a choice that was “pretty much on a whim”—but ended up being career-altering.

During freshman orientation at the University of North Texas, Schade and her classmates were asked to break into groups by major. Although she was planning on majoring in history, she didn’t opt for the history group. “I’m going to see what else is out there,” Schade thought, figuring that since she had enjoyed biology in high school, she should check out that major.

During that orientation session, Schade also met Lee Hughes, a professor who would become an important mentor throughout college. She learned that Hughes was offering a freshman research course instead of the typical first-year biology lab. Schade took the class, where she and her classmates collected soil samples, identified viruses in the sample that infected a soil bacterium called Mycobacterium smegmatis and characterized any novel viruses that they found.

On her first day in the course, Schade thought, “Wow, you can just find new viruses?” She said it opened her mind to the concept of discovery.



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