MDI Biological Laboratory
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SMCC Alumni Spotlight: Kat Pyburn-Wilson

Kat Pyburn-Wilson first dreamed of becoming a scientist at age 16 during a high school field trip to a salt marsh in southern Maine. Earning a biotechnology degree at SMCC served as the launch pad to fulfill that ambition.

Following high school, Pyburn-Wilson earned an associate degree in health studies at another community college, but financial challenges prevented them from continuing their education in that field. After stints working in foodservice, they came to SMCC in 2016, drawn by its affordability and the biotechnology program.

SMCC gave Pyburn-Wilson the right mix of classroom, laboratory and real-world hands-on learning experiences. It provided opportunities to work and study in research labs with professional scientists at the Maine Medical Center Research Institute and the MDI Biological Laboratory. Professors were supportive and encouraging, giving Pyburn-Wilson the confidence to excel in school and move forward in their education.

After graduating from SMCC, Pyburn-Wilson earned a bachelor’s degree in biology with a biotechnology concentration from the University of Southern Maine. In the fall of 2021, they entered graduate school in pursuit of a Ph.D. in immunology and microbial disease at Albany Medical College in Albany, N.Y.

Looking back, Pyburn-Wilson says SMCC provided the foundation and motivation for them to get where they are now. After earning a Ph.D., they hope to become a research scientist, preferably in an academic setting.

“I’m grateful that I got a better education at a community college that most people get in four years at a baccalaureate institution. SMCC was the best training experience for graduate school that I could have dreamed of. My worst day in science is a million times better than my best day doing anything else.”

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