#PROFspective: Biological Sciences Major Olivia Smithson

Olivia stands in a blue tank top next to a poster during a presentation.

Olivia in a garden.

Meet Olivia Smithson, a senior biological science major from Washington Township, NJ (Gloucester County) who is minoring in German, neuroscience and psychology.

How have you gotten involved on campus?

I work as an Assistant Resident Director (ARD) in Chestnut Hall on campus, and have been involved as an undergraduate research assistant since my freshman year. I also participated in ultimate frisbee, the pre-allied health club, and GetFIT

Describe your typical day on campus at Rowan.

My typical day at Rowan would start at 6:30 AM when I would wake up, eat a banana with peanut butter, and head to the gym by 7:00 AM. I would typically come back around 8:30 AM to shower and work on homework before class. I always have to eat before class too because I get extremely hungry super quickly! After my afternoon classes, I have office hours for my ARD position followed by dinner with friends, and then one night class. After I get back, I typically try to work on homework or fit in some volunteering as a Crisis Counselor for the Crisis Text Line. Before bed, I would give myself 30 minutes to relax and do my skin care routine and watch some funny YouTube videos (lately I’ve been into the TryGuys). I usually fall asleep around 12:00 AM, depending on how much homework I have. 

Olivia and a friend stand side by side on Bunce Green wearing matching RLUH t-shirts.
Olivia with a friend from RLUH.

What inspired you to choose your major?

I chose to major in Biological Science because my eyes are different colors, and I’ve been intrigued by genetics since I was a kid because of that. I feel that genetics is one of the most unexplored areas of science, and I knew I wanted to contribute to that field as an adult. Seeing that my older brother switched majors in college though, I wanted to keep an open mind instead of jumping into a purely pre-med concentration. I really enjoyed doing research on honey bees as an undergrad, but I definitely prefer more human-focused interactions every day! After shadowing this past summer at a few hospitals, my new goal is to attend medical school and specialize in pediatric genetics. 

Describe for us one of your favorite things you’ve learned in your major.

One of the most interesting things I learned this year was in my Data Science for Biologists class, and it was that so many researchers and advertising companies filter or alter their data to convey the message they choose. We’re used to seeing scammers employ these techniques, but huge companies like Apple have even been guilty of manipulative data visualization. The thing I love the most about this class is that we can apply data analysis techniques to any industry, not just biology. 

Describe for us a moment when you felt that Rowan was a good fit for you.bunce green at sunset.

One moment where I felt Rowan was a good fit for me was when I sat on Bunce Green to do homework for the first time in the spring of my freshman year. I always wanted to go to school somewhere beautiful, and I didn’t always think that Rowan could fit that description. I grew up nearby, and got to witness a lot of Rowan’s expansion, so I never officially toured the campus. But when I sat on Bunce Green and started getting some assignments done that day, I looked up and realized how gorgeous Rowan really is. I felt at peace, and I knew I was going to be okay for the rest of my time here. Now I routinely go to Bunce when the weather is nice, and I get to experience that feeling all over again every time I go.

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Story by: Olivia Smithson, senior biological sciences major