At BYU’s commencement exercises this week, University Honors student Emilee Carr will represent the graduates as the student speaker. A molecular biology major with a minor in chemistry, Carr, like her fellow classmates, has accrued many achievements as a BYU undergraduate.
With a research focus on bacteriophages as an alternative treatment for antibiotic-resistant infections, Carr has co-authored several scientific publications and presented at prestigious academic conferences. At BYU, she also helped develop several organizations to support girls and women, worked as a teaching assistant and was the vice president of the Honors Student Leadership Council. Throughout her undergraduate years, Carr has been service-oriented: she was named University Accessibility Center Volunteer of the Year in 2019, and she relaxes on the weekends by volunteering as a llama trainer at the Shri Shri Radha Krishna Temple.
University Communications’ Christie Allen sat down with Carr to discuss Carr’s experiences at BYU and plans for the future.
Christie Allen: Your resume boasts an impressive number of scientific publications and presentations. Why has mentored research been a priority for you?
Emilee Carr: On the first day of a virology research class my freshman year, I couldn’t figure out how to use a pipette, which is a basic lab instrument. I was too proud to ask for help, so I just stared at that thing for probably 20 minutes. In stubborn frustration, I decided that research was not for me. But learning to ask for help was a game changer, and I found some very patient lab partners who took me under their wing. That’s when I realized that my favorite part of research is being mentored and mentoring others. Working in professor Julianne Grose’s lab during that first year, I discovered two new bacteriophages, “good” viruses that kill only bacterial cells. I named them after my high school biology teachers who had mentored me.
CA: You’ve served as a mentor for middle school girls and have helped establish two associations at BYU to promote women’s involvement in STEM fields and medicine. How did empowering women become an area of interest for you?
EC: I come from a family of all girls, and each of us has been told by others that we were lesser for being women. But I’ve also had incredible mentors who have encouraged me to pursue my dreams of being a doctor and a mother, which has inspired me to mentor other women. As a BYU student, I worked with Girls Empowered to help middle school girls realize their incredible potential. I also created the Women in STEM Mentorship Program and a branch of the American Medical Women’s Association at BYU to create communities where women in STEM can be mentored and feel supported.
CA: What has been your favorite experience as a BYU student?
EC: As a volunteer with the University Accessibility Center my freshman year, I was paired with an older woman who was returning to BYU to finish her degree after raising a family. I met with her each week to help her write and type her assignments, and we became good friends. She showed me the importance of lifelong learning. In pre-med classes, it’s easy to get overly focused on trying to get an A. Anytime I got caught up in that during my time at BYU, I thought back to this woman and how she didn’t care about numbers — she was here because she wanted to learn.
CA: What’s next for you looking forward?
EC: Over the next year, I’ll continue working in the operating room at Utah Valley Hospital as an orderly, a job I currently do on weekends. As an orderly, I love watching how patients trust anesthesiologists to guide them through the stressful situation of going under and coming out of anesthesia. I plan to begin medical school in summer 2023 and eventually become an anesthesiologist.
CA: As you approach graduation, what advice do you have for students pursuing their undergraduate degrees at BYU?
EC: Realistically, you’re going to have some classes that you don’t enjoy, but make sure you pair those with experiences that you love. Find something that brings you joy in your education.