USC Aiken Recognizes Outstanding Senior Student

Staff Report From Aiken CEO

Thursday, May 9th, 2019

The University of South Carolina Aiken presented Allison Swiecki, a biology major in the Class of 2019, the Outstanding Senior Student Award, during its annual Academic Honors ceremony, the night before graduation.

Each May, the university recognizes students who have excelled academically in all disciplines. One student is chosen by faculty members as the standout senior.

Swiecki is a "remarkable" student who, according to one of her nominators, "embodies the image of academic success, emotional growth, and leadership."

The biology major, who has focused specifically on molecular biology, conducted genetics research throughout her time on campus. Guided by her mentors, Dr. Nathan Hancock and Dr. April DeLaurier in the USC Aiken Department of Biology and Geology, Swiecki has explored Optimizing To12 Transposition in Zebrafish.

"When choosing a university, I looked for a place that would support my desire to learn while also preparing me well for a career. I knew that I was interested in an in-depth study of the field of genetics, which examines how our DNA influences us," Swiecki said in a speech to fellow Pacers.

"I found that the department of biology and geology at USC Aiken was committed to teaching students about molecular biology, which made me very excited to become a student here."

The seven-semester researcher and scientist says that during her time in the lab, she learned how to ask questions; how to examine current scientific literature; and how to execute a research project.

"The fact that in research we get to investigate a novel concept is exciting, but it can also be extremely difficult. In today's world of infinite knowledge at our fingertips due to the Internet, it can be frustrating to not know the answer to your questions or how to fix the problem," Swiecki

"However, I never stopped researching. I always kept going back to lab. I always returned because of the people who encouraged me."

She has routinely been honored for her perseverance and research, which earned her two first place finishes at the Southeast Regional Society for Developmental Biology Meeting as well as at the Discover USC Poster Presentation. She's also received numerous other accolades. She also won a research award at the South Carolina INBRE Student Research Presentation and has received several grants. Swiecki was named a Magellan Scholar for this academic year and will graduate from the USC Aiken Honors Program. After graduation, she will pursue a doctorate in molecular biology at the University of Utah.

Besides her outstanding academic work, Swiecki has been a student leader across campus. She was a Chancellor Ambassador, an Honors Program Ambassador, served on student government, as president of both the Horticulture Club, and in the Tri Beta National Biological Honor Society.

"As a student on campus, I prioritized my academics and my research in order that I could truly learn all that I could to prepare me for a future career in science; however, I also was a student leader within multiple campus organizations. This allowed me to gain skills and experiences which could help me in any professional setting."

She outlined the skills she developed while at USC Aiken, including, how to work in a team; how to communicate and listen to others; how to implement a plan; and how to advocate for her opinion.

These attributes have garnered respect for her all over campus, among faculty, staff, and peers alike.

"I have thoroughly enjoyed working with Allison. She is an outstanding leader who has a very bright future," said Ahmed Samaha, interim vice chancellor for student life and services who presented her the award.

When she accepted the award for Outstanding Senior Student, Swiecki reminded fellow graduates and students that after graduation as they pursue other interests, careers or degrees that they can expect to face new challenges.

"We need people around us who can support us in all of our life's endeavors. We need to work with others so that we aren't trying to do it all alone," she said. "We each can do many things, but none of us can do all things at once. So don't be afraid to need people, people at home, people at school, people at work. Wherever you go, make relationships."

"I encourage you all in this time of celebration to recognize the people who matter to you. I also want to remind you that as you take this next step in your life, whatever that step may be, there will be opportunities to surround yourself with people who care about you.

"You will undoubtedly need their love and support as you do all the wonderful things you will do. They will believe in you and help you to become all that you can be."