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Biology Student Making the Most of Her Opportunities

Small class sizes and a low student-to-faculty ratio brought senior Chelbee Farnen to Angelo State. ASU then sent her to places she never thought possible.

A biology major from Marble Falls and member of the ASU Honors Program, Farnen’s most recent excursion in April was to present her microbiology research at the Great Plains Honors Council Conference at John Brown University in Arkansas. She has also presented research at regional and national conferences in Chicago and Oklahoma City—and she represented ASU at the 2015 Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference in Annapolis, Md. 

But the highlight of her ASU experience came last summer when she was accepted into the Revolutions in Biomedicine Summer School at Imperial College in London, England, where she spent three weeks studying and researching advances in global health, immunology, neurology and many other topics. 

“It was very intensive,” Farnen said. “There were times we had five lectures in a day over completely different subjects. We mostly had lectures in the mornings, and then most afternoons we had some kind of lab. We did a cystic fibrosis lab and a 3-D printing lab.” 

“For the second week, we designed, performed, obtained data from and then presented a research project,” she added. “We were in the lab non-stop. I had never done cell culture before, and that was our project, so it was a really awesome experience. The third week, we went back to covering many other subjects, including bio-informatics.” 

But it wasn’t all work for Farnen and the 20 other students in her research group who hailed from places like New York, North Carolina, Italy, Spain and China. They stayed in the Wilson House residence hall, which was just a walk across London’s famous Hyde Park from the Imperial College, and got to see a fair bit of their host city. 

“They had a lot of activities planned for us,” Farnen said. “I was surprised because a lot of the students didn’t take advantage of all of them, but I went to everything. Every weekend, they had our schedule completely packed, and we walked everywhere, which I was not expecting.” 

“I wanted to start somewhere smaller, and I saw on the ASU website that the student-to-faculty ratio was really low, so I decided to try it. And obviously, I never transferred.”

Chelbee Farnen

Their weekend treks included traditional tourist destinations like the Tower of London, British Museum, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and the London Zoo. But Farnen particularly enjoyed their walk through the East End art district, where they saw the works of famous English graffiti artist Banksy and of Thierry Noir, who became famous for his graffiti on the Berlin Wall. 

None of those experiences would have been possible, though, without a leap of faith and some help from Farnen’s mom. 

Despite excelling at Marble Falls High School, Farnen only applied to two colleges—ASU and the University of Texas at Austin. 

“I initially came to ASU thinking that if I hated it, I could always transfer to UT-Austin,” she said. “But I had also heard about UT-Austin classes with 700 people in a lecture hall, and that didn’t sound appealing to me. I wanted to start somewhere smaller, and I saw on the ASU website that the student-to-faculty ratio was really low, so I decided to try it. And obviously, I never transferred.” 

But it wasn’t until freshman summer orientation that Farnen discovered the ASU Honors Program. It was bordering on too late to apply, so her mom went to work on program director Dr. Shirley Eoff. Apparently, her mom is persuasive, because Farnen was allowed to submit her application. 

Farnen (right) and other members of the Honors Student Association pose with their group's 2015 Rammy Awards.Farnen (right) and other members of the Honors Student Association pose with their group's 2015 Rammy Awards.

“Getting into the Honors Program has been life-changing for me,” Farnen said, “because without being an Honors Program student, I would never have been able to have many of my great experiences at ASU.” 

In addition to the Honors Program, Farnen is a member of the Alpha Chi, Phi Kappa Phi and Tri-Beta national honor societies, the Honors Student Association and Who’s Who Among Students at American Universities and Colleges. She is also an Honors Program mentor and microbiology lab assistant, and she even plays intramurals. All that doesn’t leave time for much else. 

“I do try to relax when I can, though,” Farnen said, “and I do enjoy cooking for my friends. It’s therapeutic for me to chop stuff up.” 

After graduating from ASU in May 2016, Farnen will join the Ph.D. program in integrated biomedical sciences at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, where she will concentrate on infection, inflammation and immunity. Her ultimate goal is to be a university professor.

  • Tom Nurre

    Tom Nurre

    Tom Nurre is a news and information specialist at Angelo State University. 
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