From blood cells to canyons to cockroaches, sophomore Aubree Marshall is making the most of her time at Radford University

Sophomore Aubree Marshall is making the most of her time at Radford University
Aubree Marshall

Aubree Marshall arrived at Radford University with plans to become a physical therapist.

“I love studying the human body and all the things it can do,” the former high school athlete said. “I just think it’s really cool.”

But soon into her college career she had second thoughts.

She called her mom, Jennifer Marshall, one morning back home in Fancy Gap.

“Mom, I still want to the work with the human body,” Jennifer recalled Aubree saying.

There was one caveat: The bodies must be dead.

“That one threw me for a loop,” Jennifer said. “And that’s when she decided to major in anthropology.”

Biology, too.

There is a lot happening in Aubree’s college career. That’s her style.

“The busier she stays the better she is,” Jennifer said. “If she has down time, she gets so antsy and bored.”

Aubree has allowed herself little time to be bored. Last year as a freshman, she traveled to Peru with the annual Radford Amazonian Research Expedition (RARE), one of the university’s signature study abroad programs and research opportunities.

There, Aubree conducted a research project on white blood cells and the ways they change in different environments. She measured blood cell counts for everyone who went on the three-week trip – before, during and after the journey to the Amazon. She found a significant ratio alteration in one type of white blood cells while the research team was in Peru.

“Getting to do the research, see that happen and to physically hold the slides was an amazing opportunity,” Aubree said, sitting in the Center of the Sciences in front of a table stacked with books and notes.

She presented her findings in March at the American Association for Physical Anthropologists annual meeting in Austin, Texas.

Opportunities like RARE are one reason Jennifer Marshall thought Radford University would be a smart college choice for her daughter, a first-generation college student who in high school was considering large universities.

“Students can do research with faculty their freshman year at Radford, and I thought it was a good place for Aubree to stand out,” Jennifer Marshall said. “It’s important for students to get involved in just about everything they can.”

Involved perfectly describes Aubree.

“I’m really active in the Honors Academy,” she said. “That is one of the first things I wanted to be part of on campus.”

Now a sophomore, she serves as an Honors liaison and is secretary for the Honors Student Council.

“Aubree has taken every opportunity to expand her horizons in college,” said Honors Academy Director Niels Christensen. “We need more students with her sense of adventure and intellectual curiosity.”

That curiosity will have Aubree on the move again this summer, this time to Utah. She was selected by the Southern Regional Honors Council to receive a scholarship to attend the Bryce Canyon National Park Partners in the Parks program. It gives honors students from colleges around the United States a week of learning and service in the park.

“I really enjoy community service,” Aubree said. “I’ve done a lot cleaning projects on the Appalachian Trail and with a church camp. It will be fun. It will be the farthest West I’ve ever been.”

She will soon go farther.

Aubree plans to follow her intellectual curiosity around the world for more research opportunities, just like some of the Radford University faculty members she is learning from every day.

“One of my archaeology professors [Jake Fox] went for research to South America and one [David Anderson] went to Mexico, and Dr. [Cassady] Urista went to Denmark.” Aubree said. “It would be cool to travel and do research like they have done.”

Their paths have also influenced her potential career plans. “I want to get my Ph.D. and become a professor,” she said, glancing at the time.

“Oh, I have to go feed the roaches.”

That’s right. Roaches.

It’s another one of the learning adventures she is involved in on campus, working with Biology Associate Professor Jason Davis to study Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches and the effects of exposure to new microbes on their immune systems.

“Ewwww,” her mother said in response. “That’s just Aubree. She has to be doing something. She marches to the beat of her own drum, and she goes 100 mph all the time.

“And I’m very proud of her. Absolutely!”


May 9, 2018
Chad Osborne