Amazing Students

Mallory Harris

Goldwater Scholar Mallory Harris selected UGA because it provides access to a “phenomenal education and enriching experiences,” and from global travel to workouts at Ramsey, she’s taken advantage of the many resources available to her.

Hometown:

Dunwoody, Ga.

High School:

Dunwoody High School

Degree objective:

B.S. in Mathematics and Computational Biology (Honors Interdisciplinary Studies); Interdisciplinary Writing Certificate; Spanish Minor

Expected graduation:

2018

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

My most vivid memories from orientation weekend are of eating the best portobello burger I’ve ever had and my mom’s sobbing while standing in front of the other parents trying to videotape us calling the Dawgs. Since then, my time at UGA has been packed with good times.

As a Foundation Fellow and Honors student, I’ve gotten to attend seminars and book discussions on topics including diplomacy with North Korea, adoption law and environmentalism in rural America. I participated in a Maymester at UGA’s Oxford Campus, studying satire and dystopia in modernist literature. I got to see a Shakespeare play at the Globe, see one of my favorite authors speak, and visit Platform 9¾ at 2 a.m. after my friends and I got hopelessly lost (once we made it through the barrier, we found our way).

With the Fellowship, I participated in three educational spring break trips. In Washington, D.C., and New York City, we spoke with the chiefs of staff of Georgia’s senators, learned about Voice of America’s broadcasting program, and got to speak candidly with a panel of leaders in the finance industry. The following year, I spoke with indigenous people of Ecuador about the effects that the oil industry had on their community and witnessed the biodiversity of the Amazon with genetics professors Kelly Dyer and Dave Hall. This year, I learned about Balinese culture (and also surfing) with Pete Brosius from the anthropology department. To round things off, I worked in an orphanage in Thailand the summer after my freshman year and spent the fall semester of my senior year taking classes as an exchange student in Montevideo, Uruguay.

I spent this summer at Stanford University as an REU student with Erin Mordecai (a UGA alum) on a project to calculate the force of infection of Zikavirus across time and space in South and Central America. I then connected these numbers back to climate data to determine the effects that factors like temperature, humidity and precipitation have on the transmission of vector-borne disease.

I’ve conducted research with John Drake in the School of Ecology for two years on projects to develop and test a new statistical approach to disease forecasting. I recently received a Goldwater Scholarship for these projects, a recognition of the caliber of research available to students through the CURO program. I’ve also presented my research at the Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Disease Conference at UC Santa Barbara, National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis in Knoxville, and the National Conference on Undergraduate Research in Memphis, receiving support from UGA to attend all three. While at UGA, I’ve been a Presidential Scholar and been on the dean’s list, in addition to receiving a CURO assistantship and being admitted to Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society. Prior to entering UGA, I was named a National Merit Scholar, STAR Student and Mu Alpha Theta Scholar.

One other personal highlight was my contribution to the Health Center’s training program. I got lice during my freshman year and several of the students who were being trained were invited to take a peek at my scalp, because they hadn’t seen lice at the Health Center in so long. Amazing on all counts!

Current Employment:

I run social media for Girlology, a group of medical professionals who provide medically accurate programs and books to get parents talking to their kids about puberty and sexual health. I’ve gotten to work with them on national campaigns ranging from STI awareness to teen pregnancy prevention. One of my awesome bosses, Melisa Holmes, is an OB-GYN and UGA Honors Program grad!

I chose to attend UGA because…

I knew that I’d have access to a phenomenal education, in addition to enriching experiences offered by the Foundation Fellowship and Honors Program. Pretty much everything in this entry is due to the strong offerings of UGA’s professional network and generous resources. It may be less evident, but you’ll have to take my word for it, that I’ve benefited infinitely more from the personal connections I’ve made at UGA, the lifelong web of support and deep friendship that I’ve found here.

My favorite things to do on campus are…

… BodyPump group fitness classes at the Ramsey Center followed by a banana flip smoothie at East Campus Dining Hall! I also love to start off my day by walking to class while listening to an audiobook. One of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon is running into friends on North Campus and catching up/gossiping at the Arch.

When I have free time, I like…

… going on trips with the Outdoor Recreation Center! Some of my adventures with them include hang gliding, caving, scuba diving and stand-up paddleboard yoga. I try to go on at least one weekend trip with them per semester. I spent last summer in Athens and my apartment complex has a pool, so I also spent some great days poolside.

My favorite place to study is…

… the window desks at the science library. If I need a break, I can head downstairs and take a nap on the beanbags. On the weekends, I set up at Two Story Coffeeshop, which is a cozy place located at Five Points. If I want to feel like I’m in a movie, I also like to scribble furiously on the chalkboard walls of that one room in the main library. I stopped studying at the Tate Center after the time that one of the girls who’d been sitting across from me for an hour pulled a sugar glider (small rodent) out of her frocket because it really freaked me out.

My favorite professor is…

I’ve been doing research with John Drake in the ecology department since my sophomore year. He’s an intellectual powerhouse with boundless energy who strikes the perfect balance between giving undergraduates creative freedom to take on challenging projects, while giving enough guidance to keep us on track (and a very sleek color-coded template for poster presentations). He’s extraordinarily generous with his time and met with me on a weekly basis, even as he opened UGA’s new Center for the Ecology of Infectious Diseases and worked on projects that received national attention (he’s also extremely humble, so I only find out about half of this stuff from Googling him). Working with a leader in the field of disease ecology has already opened doors for me, including the Goldwater Scholarship, but I’m most grateful for the positive and supportive environment that Dr. Drake built his lab around.

Through my activism, I’ve worked with Magdalena Zurawski, Ivan Ingermann and Jenny Gropp. Aside from being talented professors and artists, they’ve been tireless advocates for safety and equality in our community. 

Finally, the hugest of kudos to the Honors Program’s staff. In particular, David Williams (my comedic idol), Emily Myers (how does she do so many things at once and still send the most fun emails to read?), and Jessica Hunt (I go to her for guidance of any sort and leave with a concrete plan and two new books).

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…

Is time travel allowed? I help coach an all-girls math team and can’t wait to see where they end up 20 years from now. It’s been so fun to see them become more confident in their abilities over the past couple of years and am sure great things lie ahead for for them. I hope that they remain enthusiastic about math and put their powers to good use in the future.

If I knew I could not fail, I would…

… finish writing my math fiction novel and get it published! It’s been a pet project of mine since high school, when my bearded mentor/calculus teacher recommended the genre to me. The point is to convey mathematical topics and methods through a novel (bonus points if the reader doesn’t realize they’re learning and you trick them into it). I have a bunch of chapters written and ran a book club last summer where the girls on my math team would read and comment on the chapters.

If money was not a consideration, I would love to…

… eradicate malaria, one of the greatest economic burdens that developing countries face. Often, once infection levels appear to subside, countries will back off on preventive measures in order to reallocate their limited resources, leading to disease resurgence. On a more realistic note, I hope that my work on forecasting vector-borne diseases will help guide more efficient, cost-effective eradication efforts.

What is your passion and how are you committed to pursuing it?

Both of my grandmothers, one of my grandfathers, and my aunt are all teachers. During my time at UGA, I’ve been able to work with a plethora of educational groups. Through UGA Mathcounts, I’ve worked with students at middle schools across the county on math enrichment and competition preparation. At Barrow Elementary School, I worked with the Reading Intervention program for first-graders who scored below grade level. I also helped to pilot their new Math Intervention program. I also worked with a group of gifted fifth-graders on more challenging problems, exposing them to advanced mathematical concepts. Through the Athens Area Girls Math Team, I got to mentor and teach a group of elementary school students (probably the only time I’ll ever be called “coach”). Most recently, I stumbled into a community of Stanford alums who tutor low-income students in their neighborhood. Through the summer, we worked on math and read “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” together. As I enter academia, I hope to continue working in education and outreach.

After graduation, I plan to…

… attend graduate school and pursue a Ph.D. in computational biology. I want to continue my research at the intersection of biology and the quantitative sciences to prevent the spread of diseases.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…

During my freshman year, I took Ted Shifrin’s notoriously difficult two-semester “Multivariable Calculus and Linear Algebra” course. I made some of my best friends working from second lunch until sunrise in a Myers study room on the problem sets, taking breaks to throw animal crackers into each other’s mouths. When we finished our last problem set, we jumped down a flight of steps and then Snellibrated. I’ll never forget the sense of accomplishment and camaraderie that came from tackling something so challenging as a team.

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