2017 Tillman Scholar

Emily Junkins

Military Spouse
University of Oklahoma
Ph.D., Microbiology

“A passion for science must be motivated by compassion for others.”

From Emily’s time volunteering in Zambia, she has been motivated by actual need versus perceived need; namely, what is practical and sustainable for a community versus what is unnecessary and potentially harmful. This paradigm defines her role as a military spouse and microbiologist. As a Ph.D. student with experiences in educational service, Emily believes there are two systemic issues that she can make a difference in with her training: target-specific scientific solutions and mentorship of STEM students.

First, Emily plans to use real-world problem solving in the field of microbiology; what are current problems our societies face and how can microbiology solve them. One solution will not fix a systemic problem across diverse communities, and often we as outsiders are ill equipped to translate practicalities of a solution to a community. Her time in Zambia revealed that education initiatives and scientific innovations must be designed with specific goals for specific communities. Consequently, Emily’s collaborations, whether solving corrosion problems on USAF planes or using road-kill to find novel microbial drug targets, aim to produce practical solutions that can be applied across communities.

Second, two profound individuals have shaped Emily as a scientist by teaching her how to conduct meaningful research. She currently mentors a team of undergraduate students to provide the same guidance about seeking practical solutions to complex problems. Overall, Emily wants to set an example for her current and future students that compassion for others and passion for science is enough to realistically solve problems at the local and global level.