Ashley Smith’s resume is that of someone steadily marching toward a bright future in medicine. In addition to the bachelor’s degree in biological sciences she will soon receive from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, her notable accomplishments include stints as a blood donor ambassador for the American Red Cross and a Rensselaer Student Health Advisory Council student liaison. She also spent three summers working at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center and Mount Sinai Beth Israel.
However, one eye-catching entry that stands apart on her resume is a prestigious National Science Foundation undergraduate research internship spent researching lionfish at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences. One might reasonably wonder what interested her in journeying to the tropics during hurricane season to assess the population demography and ecology of invasive fish.
“What fascinated me was that it was so far from anything that I have ever done,” Smith said. “I love the water, but I have never studied marine science or ecology. I thought this would be a great opportunity to expand my scientific knowledge and explore a new field.”
Poised and polished, Smith, a native of the Bronx, chose to attend Rensselaer for the solid foundation in STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — she knew she would receive. She arrived with numerous honors to commend her, among them a Rensselaer Medal and Garnet D. Baltimore Endowed Scholarship. Throughout her undergraduate career, she continued to expand her skill set, as well as her list of accolades, as she made progress toward her career.
“At RPI, I have grown in ways that I never believed I would,” Smith said. “I am very grateful and content with my choice. I am so excited for what is to come because I know I am prepared and ready.”
Initially, college was a shift from her family-oriented home life, and Smith said she built an on-campus family in many of the student organizations she joined. She stayed involved, holding leadership positions in the Rensselaer chapters of the National Society of Black Engineers and the Black Students’ Alliance. Additionally, she became the president of the Xi Pi Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.
Throughout her time at Rensselaer, Smith’s coursework and summer experiences confirmed her interest in medicine. Each of her summer internships and jobs gave her a better sense of what it means to work in a hospital and in medicine in general.
“It is extremely rewarding being able to give back and pour into the community,” Smith said. “Being in the medical field where I could make appointments, ensure that patients were comfortable, or even put a smile on their faces by having conversations was awesome.”
A class in neuroscience sparked an interest in neurology and helped her refine her ultimate goal.
“My primary interest was always pediatrics; however, my newfound love of neuroscience has me looking to fuse those two interests and become a pediatric neurologist,” Smith said.
Upon graduation, Smith intends to apply for post-baccalaureate programs and broaden her clinical experience.