Shared Passion for Research, Soccer Inspires Outstanding Graduate Ashley Hamilton

By Darrell J. Pehr | Published: December 13, 2019

Shared Passion for Research, Soccer Inspires Outstanding Graduate Ashley Hamilton

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Whether it was pursuing the ball on a soccer field or pursuing knowledge in the field of biology, Ashley Hamilton was determined to follow her passions during her four years at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

Hamilton, a biology major with a 4.0 grade point average, has been selected as an Outstanding Graduate for the College of Science and Engineering and will receive her degree during the Fall 2019 commencement ceremony Saturday, Dec. 14.

After high school graduation, the Dallas native wanted to stay close to home, and she wanted to attend a school with a strong marine biology program. That led her to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, and when she earned a spot on the Islander Women’s Soccer team, she knew she had found a new home.

Not long after Hamilton settled into her studies, she was approached by Dr. Patrick Larkin, Associate Professor of Chemistry, to work in his lab. She quickly accepted, which was the beginning of several lab and internship opportunities as an Islander.

Most of her lab time was spent working for Dr. Chris Bird, Associate Professor of Biology. In Bird’s lab, Hamilton focused on changes in the appearance and development of a species of limpet, a marine snail found in the Hawaiian Islands. Far surpassing expectations of an undergraduate researcher, Hamilton authored two scientific papers that have been submitted to journals. She also presented her findings at five national conferences, including the National Diversity in STEM Conference in November, a meeting in Honolulu organized by the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics & Native Americans in Science.

“Dr. Patrick Larkin and Dr. Chris Bird have helped me develop into a successful scientific researcher,” Hamilton said. “Through their example and help, they have inspired me to pursue a Ph.D. and one day become a faculty member myself.”

One of her classes, in particular, stands out in her memory.

“My best experience was collecting, identifying, and pressing plant specimens for my plant taxonomy class,” she said. “I learned so much from that class and spent more time outdoors in the beautiful Texas spring than any other time I have lived in Corpus Christi. It also helped me discover my deep love of plant science.”

Hamilton’s passion for soccer led her to captain the team during her junior year. She was a starter for three years and was part of the Student Athletic Advisor Council, helping connect athletes with the rest of campus and Corpus Christi community.

“I was able to make an impact through soccer both on and off the field by representing and leading a team that helped bring the community together during our games, and by potentially inspiring girls in the community to pursue their dreams of collegiate sports,” Hamilton said. “I have also continued working with student athletes by tutoring them, guiding them through their schoolwork, and helping them realize their ability to succeed in classes.”

One of the Assistant Coaches of the Islanders Women’s Soccer team, Chris Jones, was another mentor for Hamilton.

“Coach Jones went out of his way to help me find the ability to work hard and stay strong in the face of adversity,” said Hamilton. “In doing so, he taught me about the strength it takes to succeed in a competitive world, as well as the importance of kindness and generosity in helping those who need it.”

After graduation, Hamilton will work at the University of South Carolina for a faculty member who studies the evolution of plants. She also plans to pursue a Ph.D. in botany or evolutionary biology, eventually working her way through academia to a faculty position, or to an outreach position at a botanical garden.

“I found that I love learning things and staying in academia will enable me to never stop learning,” Hamilton said. “I would love to be able to make some sort of an impact on the world with either the things that I learn, that were previously not known, or by helping people learn.”