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A “Nontraditional” Science Student

March 6, 2014
Liz Masure
Liz Masure

Elizabeth Masure, who entered Keene State as a freshman in 2012 at the age of 30, might be classified as a nontraditional student, but “exceptional” would be a more telling description. Gifted at both scientific research and teaching, she is taking 18 credits per semester and attending summer school to complete three simultaneous degrees: bachelor of science degrees in biology, general science, and secondary education.

She will be presenting two posters based on independent research under biology professors Susan Whittemore and Loren Launen at the Academic Excellence Conference on April 5, and will travel to the Society of Toxicology annual conference in Phoenix this spring to present results of her work with Xenopus laevis (the African clawed frog) in Dr. Whittemore’s biology lab. Her research, investigating the effect of polyaromatic hydrocarbons on the frogs’ neural crest explants (cells grown in a culture), is supported by a NH-INBRE grant.

It would be a big academic load for any student, but Liz also has a busy life outside of class. She and her husband have three children, ages 12, 8, and 7, and Liz is a volunteer in her community as well as on the KSC campus. Her parents (who live next door) and her husband help make her scholastic schedule possible, but Liz is the one who studies until midnight, spends extra time in the lab, and admittedly eats most of her meals in the car commuting back and forth to Charlestown, NH.

This is Liz’s second try at college. She entered Keene State in 2000, right out of Vermont Academy, assuming she would use her talents as a flutist, pianist, and singer to become a music teacher. She left before completing the year and went to work in a bank. At home, she loved doing simple science experiments with her children, and they often spent hours observing and exploring nature and visiting science museums. When her youngest child started school fulltime, Liz applied for readmission, this time as a science student. Although she had taken AP biology years earlier in high school, she worried about taking chemistry, required for a degree in biology. Her KSC chemistry professor, Dr. Brian Anderson, convinced her she could master it, and he was right: she is currently taking Organic Chemistry II and holding her own in this challenging subject.

For a scholar like Liz, her next big quandary may be what to do in 2016 after she graduates: go into teaching (she will be qualified to teach middle school science and high school biology) or work toward an advanced degree in biology – an intellectual and emotional tug of war between two loves. Given her ability to handle many roles at once, one imagines that she will find a way to find a “nontraditional” solution to this problem, too.