Symone McKinney has seen the possibilities of a career in biology thanks to the human eye.
As a senior at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, the 21-year-old who grew up outside of Pittsburgh knew she wanted to attend a school that focused on a STEM education — science, technology, engineering and math .
“Those are the jobs we keep hearing are going to do well and be around for a long time,” she said. “I want a career that will challenge me, and I knew a STEM job would do that.”
While her education has helped her learn about the entire human body, it wasn’t until she started an internship earlier this year at an optical center that she came to appreciate how much the eyes do on their own, she said.
As a trained technician, McKinney helps people find glasses, contacts and other options that might fit the best needs for their eyes. The hands-on experience helped her see the possibilities that a degree in biology might have for her.
“From an academic standpoint, the professors are always trying to get us to learn to think outside of the box,” McKinney said. “It’s not just about the textbook. It’s about learning to apply what we’re taught in the real world.”
Thanks to the innovative encouragement that Harrisburg University gives its students, she said, people are encouraged to try new things. HU has given McKinney the opportunity to set her own path, rather than trudge through an education “because that’s how it’s always been done,” she said.
“There’s always something new here – whether it’s a club or activity or just a new opportunity to expand your education,” McKinney said.
What McKinney has learned in the classroom flows seamlessly into what she does in her internship, she said. With an expected 2016 graduation date approaching, the senior hopes to continue her education to help her advance even further into the field of biology.
Until then, she continues to look for new ways to heighten her education and her campus experience.
As the vice president of the athletic club, a group she has been a member of since she was a freshman, McKinney is able to practice leadership skills through organizing events and hosting fundraisers for sporting equipment.
She also enjoys encouraging other students to get active and eat better, something she believes helps students do better in class.
“I think HU has given me an edge to make a difference in the world,” McKinney said. “I know when I leave here that it will be with a solid foundation. I feel like I could go anywhere after this and be taken seriously because of what I’ve learned here. An education speaks volumes.”