Judson College senior Erin Brown aces Biology ACAT
“I always expected her to do well,” said Dr. Thomas Wilson, who retired last year after teaching Biology at Judson College for 46 years, when asked about his former student Erin Brown. Named the most outstanding Judson College freshman in both Biology and Chemistry in 2015 and the most outstanding senior in Biology and Chemistry in 2018, Brown, a Hartselle, Ala., native, is in the business of exceeding high expectations.
When Brown took the Biology Area Concentration Achievement Test (ACAT), a nationally-referenced standardized test that measures how well students in a particular major have mastered content in their field, there was little doubt that she would perform well. Brown’s sights, however, were higher; she out-performed almost every Biology major in the country.
Her recent score of 785 out of 800 on the Biology ACAT ranked her in the 100th percentile of all test-takers, which means that she will graduate from Judson College in June with greater content knowledge than 99% of all Biology majors at 59 American colleges that administer the ACAT.
Dr. Kris McConnell, current Head of the Biology Department, agrees with Wilson, adding that Brown is “one of the strongest students we have seen in the Science Division”. McConnell supervised Brown’s research project for the Judson College Honors Program, which investigated enzymes important to gene expression in fruit flies (entitled “Investigating Histone Deacetylation during Chorion Gene Amplification in Drosophila Oogenesis”) and won second place in the 2018 Alabama Academy of Science meeting. “Erin has excelled in every class she has taken, and it has been an absolute pleasure to teach her,” said McConnell.
In her five years at Judson, Brown has completed virtually every class taught in the Science Division, earning double majors in Biology and Chemistry and a minor in Mathematics. She has earned a place on the Judson College Dean’s list every semester since her arrival at Judson, and she has been named a President’s Scholar every term since becoming eligible for that honor in 2016. She has served as a math tutor and biology lab assistant, president of the Judson Science Club and the Kappa Sigma chapter of the Beta Beta Beta National Biological Honor Society, and an enthusiastic volunteer in ecology projects, including those at Judson’s Eiland Outdoor Laboratory on the Cahaba River.
“Erin very quickly demonstrated a keen mind and a wonderful attitude,” said Wilson, who worked closely with Erin on many of those projects. “It is with great pride that I celebrate [her ACAT news] with the Judson biology family. This is the highest score on this difficult national exam made by any student in my 47 years of being associated with Judson College.”
Brown has excelled outside the classroom, as well. In addition to being selected as a Judson Student Ambassador, throughout her time at Judson she was elected to serve terms on the Student Government Association’s Executive Council as dorm representative, Vice President of Government, and Vice President of Activities. She traveled to New York City twice as a member of Judson’s SEND Spring Break Mission teams to work with church planters in Queens. Erin and her sister also traveled to Uganda for a short-term mission trip through her home church, Shoal Creek Baptist Church in Decatur, during her time at Judson. Brown also joined Judson’s USCAA varsity soccer team for the 2018-2019 school year.
“I’m not sure I would have been this successful somewhere else,” said Brown. “My parents [Dwight and Leigh Brown of Hartselle] have always been supportive and tried to push me not to be lazy, but it was tempting to do just enough to get by in high school. When I came to Judson, I found professors who knew me and knew how to challenge me. After that, I really wanted to see what I was capable of doing.”
Upon her graduation in June, Brown plans to spend a year working for a private chemical company while she begins the medical school application process. Her eventual goal is to earn her Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree through the Air Force Health Professions Scholarship Program.