Going the Distance
Catherine Campbell ’12 finds success on the track, in the lab and beyond
by Matt Getty
January 26, 2012
Catherine Campbell ’12, who has been named an All-Academic Runner six times, is excited about the impact that new athletic facilities funded though the second phase of the First in America capital campaign will have on future Red Devils.“Dickinson already has very strong athletics programs to begin with,” she says. “Having top facilities is only going to take us further.” Photo by James Rasp.
Catherine Campbell ’12 didn’t want to run that night. Staring out the rain-streaked bus window in Lewisburg, Pa., she hoped that Cross Country/Track & Field Coach Don Nichter would simply climb back onboard and tell the team the meet was canceled. It was too cold, too wet and too windy to run.
But that’s not what happened.
Instead, the sophomore biology and biochemistry & molecular biology double major from Carlisle, Pa., found herself shivering on the starting blocks of the 10,000 meters in Bucknell University’s Bison Outdoor Classic. At the crack of the starter’s pistol, she ran with the pack of Division I, II and III runners, fighting the wind that cut through her uniform.
But something changed in the second half of the race. Suddenly, Campbell couldn’t feel the wind or the rain, and she wasn’t cold. Suddenly, she was pulling away from the pack.
The next thing she knew, she crossed the finish line not only coming in first, but also setting a new Dickinson record for the 10,000 meters.
“That was my breakthrough race,” says Campbell, who’s now a senior. “Definitely, that was the most memorable race of my college career—so far.”
The drive that helped Campbell get off that bus and run her breakthrough race despite the elements has reached well beyond the track. It also helped Campbell take on an eight-week research project aimed at increasing the efficiency of drug development with Professor of Chemistry David Crouch in the summer following her first year at Dickinson. It led her to South Caicos to get scuba certified and study the island’s coral-reef system the summer after her sophomore year. And now, it’s pushing her forward on a senior thesis based on research she’s done with Associate Professor of Biology Michael Roberts on gene expression in human leukemia cells—part of an interdisciplinary National Science Foundation-funded project aimed at helping drug developers find a cure for the disease.
“Athletics have definitely affected my academic life,” says Campbell, who has run on the cross country and track & field teams during each of her four years at Dickinson. “It’s made me much more organized. Having that practice schedule and knowing that you’re only going to only have so many hours at the end of the day makes you careful about how you manage your time. Also, just the process of competing, being accountable to your teammates—those things carry over into other parts of your life.”
Despite claiming Dickinson’s McAndrews Award in 2010, garnering first-team All-Centennial Conference honors three times and helping her team earn four national-championship bids, Campbell was drawn to Dickinson by academics as much as athletics. After she sat in on a Dickinson physiology class during her senior year in high school, Associate Professor of Biology Chuck Zwemer spent nearly an hour with her discussing research opportunities in the college’s science programs.
“The fact that he took the time to do that really impressed me,” Campbell recalls. “It showed me how dedicated the college was to science education. … The opportunity to do research with real implications just makes what you’re studying so much more meaningful.”
It didn’t hurt that Dickinson also was preparing to unveil the new Rector Science Complex and a newly built track during her first year on campus. “I just felt like Dickinson was made-to-order for me,” she says with a laugh.
Looking forward to graduating this spring, Campbell is confident that made-to-order experience will prepare her for her next challenge. After taking a year to focus on scientific research, she plans to apply to medical school, where she feels that her grounding in science and the liberal arts will help her outpace other medical students.
“The combination of science, humanities and social science I’ve been able to get at Dickinson really provides a unique edge,” she explains. “Doctors have to be able to relate to people from different backgrounds and cultures, and the liberal-arts experience has prepared me well for that.”