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Faith Hester: Blinded By Science


Student-Athletes

Faith Hester didn't come to Tufts planning to be an athlete or a scientist. But after four years, finding herself captain of the women's varsity crew team and engaged in cutting-edge biological research, the senior couldn't be more pleased.

A science enthusiast in high school, Hester says she wanted to explore other disciplines in college, but couldn't resist the pull of science courses. When she took a psychology class freshman year that delved into the mysteries of the brain, Hester says she was "hooked."

"I had to know how it worked and why these things happened and what was involved," she recalls. "To do that, I knew I had to come to the biology department."

After taking a neurobiology course with Professor Barry Trimmer, she staked him out as her advisor and has spent the past two years working in his lab, studying the locomotion of caterpillars. As Hester breathlessly describes the uniqueness of their movement, her excitement is palpable.

"It's fascinating to me to be able to ask a question about why a living thing is the way it is and to be able to find a reasonable answer and to create techniques to be able to work toward that answer," she explains. "That's where the love of science is: the question and answer process and the experimenting along the way to find what you want."

Experimenting along the way is just how Hester found herself out on the Malden River. As a sophomore, she joined Tufts' novice crew team to get a slice of the New England collegiate experience. But she ended up discovering a new passion and eventually earned a spot on the varsity squad. After last year's trip to the NCAA Championships, Hester was named a captain by her teammates this season.

"You learn to be focused and you learn to be very present."

Getting everything done in the lab and on the water is a challenge, but Hester says that intensity is the key to staying on top of her obligations.

"I go to practice and I'm on. I have to forget everything else and focus on that," she says. "I can go into the lab and say, 'This is where I am.' You learn to be focused and you learn to be very present."

Hester has always sought to marry her love of science with her enthusiasm toward working with children. She has tutored area schoolchildren through the Leonard Carmichael Society and co-taught a nutrition unit to a local elementary school class through the Experimental College's Science Elementary Education Partners (SEEP) course.

"I love working with kids," she says. "I just find their energy and interest in things energizing to me."

After graduation, she will head to Phoenix to teach high school biology as part of the Teach for America program. As she prepares to educate potentially college-bound young minds, she reflects on what has made her experience at Tufts worthwhile.

"College has not been an easy transition for me," admits Hester, but she says that her research, sport and activities like the FIT pre-orientation program have proved to be invaluably positive experiences. "I don't feel that they're the sources of my challenges; if anything, they're the strength that helped me get over other challenges."


Profiles written by Georgiana Cohen

Action photo of Kunkes by Joanie Tobin, Tufts University Photo. Action photo of Hester by Melody Ko, Tufts University Photo. Other images courtesy of Paul Sweeney, Department of Athletics

This story originally ran on Apr. 2, 2007.