Erin Anderson began her journey to earn her doctoral degree in 2017. This past December, she fulfilled that ambition as she graduated with a doctorate in pharmaceutical sciences.
After completing her undergraduate work at North Carolina State University with a double major in chemistry and biochemistry, Anderson spent several years working in the drug discovery industry.
She came to the University of South Carolina when her husband accepted a position as a rhetoric and composition professor in the Department of English Language and Literature. Anderson joined the Integrated Biomedical Sciences Graduate program at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine and the lab of Jill Turner in the College of Pharmacy researching neuroscience pharmacogenomics.
There was a point in Anderson’s life when all she heard was that achieving such academic success would not be possible. As an undergraduate, she was diagnosed with dyslexia, a learning disability that can make it difficult to learn in a traditional classroom setting.
“I struggled my first year as an undergraduate and finally got tested,” she says. “It definitely makes it interesting when 99 percent of the world thinks one way and you are part of the one percent that thinks another.”
Everyone’s journey is different ... You must be less fearful of what others think and follow your own path.
Through perseverance and accommodations provided through the Americans with Disabilities Act, Anderson learned to advocate for herself and push through the barriers she faced.
“I had to provide data on why my accommodations only leveled the field and did not give me an unfair advantage,” she says. “I had to learn how to be my own advocate and stand my ground.”
Her focus resulted in tremendous success. While conducting her research, which focused on sex differences in the molecular effects on the immune system during withdrawal from nicotine, Anderson earned a $50,000 R36 National Institutes of Health Grant.
She also found time to serve as treasurer for the South Carolina chapter of Delta Alpha Pi, an international honors society for high achieving students with disabilities.
“The group works with students that have other disabilities, and it is an opportunity to share techniques and other ways to study,” she says.
Anderson says it is important to not compare yourself to other students and to not let negativity from others sway your goals.
“Everyone’s journey is different,” she says. “You must be less fearful of what others think and follow your own path.”