News from The Mahurin Honors College
Hannah Pennington Spotlight
- Sydney Windhorst
- Tuesday, January 25th, 2022
The Mahurin Honors College (MHC) believes that research provides hands-on experience for scholars to immerse themselves in their academic passions. While research is beneficial for all scholars, some scholars, such as Hannah Pennington, have found a home in the science lab and embrace research as their professional career.
Hannah’s college career started at quite a young age. She was accepted into The Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science on WKU’s campus. The Gatton Academy is a residential program for bright, highly motivated Kentucky high school students who have demonstrated interest in pursuing advanced careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The Gatton Academy enabled Hannah to study abroad in Costa Rica, which put the years of trekking up the WKU hill to good use by traversing mountains for biodiversity research.
During her summers, Hannah would research at the Wood Hudson Cancer Research Laboratory in Newport, Kentucky. Following her graduation from The Gatton Academy, Hannah chose to stay enrolled at WKU and become an MHC scholar. Hannah completed a CE/T project on the mathematical modeling of wound healing which was selected as CE/T of the Year upon her graduation in 2015. Hannah asserts her research experience inside and outside of the classroom thoroughly prepared her for her research-intensive Ph.D. program.
Upon graduating from WKU, Hannah moved to Chicago to begin her graduate work at the University of Chicago as she pursued her M.D./Ph.D. Hannah completed two years of Medical School and her first board exam, then moved to the second phase of her graduate school in 2017 when she started her PhD in Dr. Brad Merrill's lab. She is currently in her fifth and final year of her Ph.D. In the coming months, Hannah will finish and present her thesis, and then return to Medical School until 2024.
While her heart may be in Kentucky, Hannah has embraced Chicago as an opportunity to serve a diverse population. “I started really looking into doing medicine with a much more diverse, urban community, because I realized the exposure you get by traveling to other places is how you become a better academic. I kind of apply that to my medicine. Chicago is showing me so many different patient populations, as well as peers.”
What advice does a successful medical scholar like Hannah want to leave for current MHC Scholars?
“The best thing you can do is to have an open mind and go to a lot of information sessions and presentations, especially in those first two years. Many things ended up being really important to me whether it was volunteering or specific classes that were suggested by the MHC. Those opportunities enriched my time and became the things that are now prioritzed in my career. Using your time to pursue the things you truly care about is the only way to prove to people that you're a passionate person.”
Hannah’s journey reflects great dedication and drive, and we are honored to continue to watch her ascent towards excellence.