Shenelle Shaw ’23, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

"I chose UConn because of its R1 research title. I wanted to have access to resources such as faculty and research labs that focused on the life sciences and biology."

Shenelle Shaw outside Peter J. Werth Residence Tower.

Molecular and cell biology major Shenelle Shaw '23 (CLAS) outside Peter J. Werth Residence Tower on April 7, 2023. (Kayla Simon/UConn Photo)

Why did you choose to go to UConn? 
I chose UConn because of its R1 research title. I wanted to have access to resources such as faculty and research labs that focused on the life sciences and biology. I also really liked that it was a large, public university. Being in such a large community, I had the chance to join various small subgroups, which allowed me to explore my different interests. 

What drew you to your field of study? 
In middle school, I became fascinated by the life sciences, specifically human biology. What drew me into molecular and cell biology was taking a genetics class (MCB 2410) as a sophomore with Professor Mark Longo. This course gave me a deep appreciation for how mutations and cellular mechanisms impact underlying hereditary conditions like cancer.   

Did you have a favorite professor or class? 
John Redden, my human anatomy and physiology (PNB 2264/2265) professor, was my favorite professor at UConn. He brings enthusiasm and vigor to each lecture and seems to genuinely care about students’ understanding and real-life application of the course material. I also love his dedication and creativity for Halloween costumes! His Ash Ketchum costume from Pokémon with his adorable dog dressed as Pikachu will forever be memorable. 

What activities were you involved in as a student? 
I have been involved in the Women in Math, Science, and Engineering (WiMSE) learning community, Learning Community Talks 2020: Delving into Diversity, the Nubian dance team, West Indian Student Organization (WISO), McNair Scholars, as well as working within research in Anastasios Tzingounis lab in the Department of Physiology and Neurobiology. I was the social affairs chair of the Learning Community Council and a UConn first year mentor.  

What’s one thing that surprised you about UConn? 
UConn surprised me with the vast academic and scholarship opportunities for underrepresented students. As a first-generation student, woman of color, with a Caribbean background, and child of immigrants, I have had to deal with constant imposter syndrome, especially in a predominantly white institution like UConn. However, I have been very fortunate to have access to the UConn First Generation Society, WiMSE learning community, and McNair Scholars program. All these curated spaces have advanced my confidence in professional settings in the STEM field and have molded me into a more competitive candidate for future career opportunities.    

How has UConn prepared you for the next chapter in life? 
UConn has given me an immense number of valuable connections and networks that have prepared me for the next chapter in life. Mentors from first year programs such as program coordinator Helena DeBald helping to coach me at LC talks, working with me as a first-year mentor and ultimately igniting my curiosity for research by helping to execute the UConn research connections event. I have also been fortunate to have mentors such as Renée Trueman, the McNair program coordinator, and my PI, Anastasios Tzingounis, who have given me their full support, guidance into becoming a competitive PA candidate, and recommendations for academic programs. The mentors I have made at UConn have done a magnificent job in coaching me for future projects in the next chapter of my life. 

Any advice for incoming students? 
Make friends who make you feel comfortable, embraced, and celebrated. I can’t emphasize enough how essential the friends you make at this institution will impact your feeling of belonging, and success at UConn. These are potential long-life friends and a strong support system for the ups and downs you will inevitably face in the college environment. 

What’s one thing everyone should do during their time at UConn? 
Sled down Horsebarn Hill with friends! It is such an exhilarating and fun experience. While you’re there, get some ice cream from the dairy bar. 

If UConn had a different mascot, what would it be, and why? 
I believe if UConn had a different mascot, it would be a wolf named Chase. Chase, the wolf, would represent the knowledge, strength, and loyalty of UConn Nation and we would of course get to still be a UConn pack! 

How has being a student in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences impacted your UConn experience?  
CLAS emphasizes creative education and mentorship and foundational research and inquiry. Being a CLAS student gave me invaluable insight into a broad range of innovative thinking and unique ideas. Research being one of the top priorities of CLAS dramatically impacted my UConn experience by giving me exposure to a magnitude of research labs within different departments under biology.