Finding Her Place in the World
Education. Experience. Impact. That’s the story of Tifani Panek ’22, a first-generation college student who has embraced every opportunity at Davidson.
Tifani was drawn to Davidson because of the multidisciplinary approach to learning and the strength of STEM-related programs. After a visit to campus and a moving, encouraging conversation with Professor Magdalena Maiz-Pena, Tifani could tell Davidson was a place filled with people who would make her feel valued and loved.
As a Bonner Scholar and biology/pre-med major, Tifani stays busy with service requirements for both the scholarship and her classes. In addition, she is part of the Union Board, mentoring through the STRIDE program, the Davidson International Association and MAPS, a pre-med association for minority students.
“The Bonner program is a great facilitation of community—the scholars, who are so kind and have such big hearts, have become some of my closest friends,” she says. “From serving our community to team-building workshops to having weekly dinners—before COVID—I have become a better, more well-rounded person overall.”
Another meaningful experience for Tifani took place last summer—online—as a researcher through the Duke Marine Lab Research Experience for Undergraduates. Usually, her work is in a lab, but remotely, she was able to focus on data analytics, a new skill set. The previous summer, she interned as a research assistant with Cornell University.
“[Through Duke University], we were investigating the impact of plastic pollution on the gut microbiome of Japanese medaka fish, which has larger implications for the impact of ingesting these kinds of pollution.”
In addition to being a Bonner Scholar, Tifani also receives the Williams Family Scholarship and the James C. and Florence P. Smith Scholarship. Following Davidson, Tifani wants to continue with research through fellowships, and she will be applying to medical school. The mix of experiences on and off campus has prepared her for a life dedicated to leadership and service.
“My professors have taught me how to think in a way that values human experience,” she says. “We look at what we can do to be better people and what our place is in the world so we can make it better. I’ve really been able to experience it all.”