MADISON, NJ -- Erin Connors always had a drive to study science.

That drive and the hands-on science curriculum she experienced at Drew University are key to her success. Case in point: the New Jersey Tech Council named Connors, a 2018 graduate who majored in biochemistry and molecular biology, as an Innovator to Watch in STEM-one of just six college students to earn the distinction in New Jersey.

Connors, who is now pursuing a PhD in biomedical sciences at Ohio State, credited the science programs she experienced in The Forest, specifically the Drew Summer Science Institute and the Research Institute for Scientists Emeriti, which offers students hands-on research opportunities that they can't get at many other colleges.

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"The research I have conducted at Drew has real world applications and helped me develop from a student studying science to a true scientist who is answering questions to help better our world, specifically for me in advancing medicine," Connors said.

Connors' introduction to RISE came during high school, when she volunteered in the lab of RISE Fellow Vince Gullo and learned about the synthesis of antimicrobials -- the process of making drugs to fight off bacterial infection. She continued this work as an undergraduate. Connors then joined the lab of Fellow Marvin Bayne, where she expanded her research experience to include molecular biology. At the same time, she continued to pursue another passion, soccer, by playing on the women's team.

The innovator recognition, she said, "means that I can make a difference in science." She added that it's "exciting to see all my hard work over the last four years pay off and drives me to continue learning and to continue bringing my enthusiasm to the field. This award is a testament to all I am capable of doing as I continue in graduate school and beyond."

Drew University, a Phi Beta Kappa liberal arts university, includes the College of Liberal Arts, the Drew Theological School and the Caspersen School of Graduate Studies. Drew is located on a beautiful, wooded, 186-acre campus in Madison, NJ. It has a total enrollment of more than 2,000 students and has 145 full-time faculty members, 94% of whom hold the terminal degree in their field. The Theological and Caspersen schools offer MA and PhD degrees and the College confers BA degrees in more than 30 disciplines.