When Johanna Qvist came to America from Sweden she worked as an au pair. Not sure of her life trajectory, she enrolled at Collin College. One biology class with professor Rebecca Orr forever altered her future.

“I had never taken science classes in Sweden,” Qvist said. “Introduction to Biology was my first science class. Professor Orr changed my whole view. It was the way she was teaching and applying things to real life. I knew then that I wanted to study science and medicine.”

Before earning her Collin College associate of science degree summa cum laude in 2013, Qvist was selected to join the college’s Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. She and fellow members helped with a zebra mussel bill that affected the local area’s water supply.

Johanna Qvist with Dr. Eric Kandel

Johanna Qvist with Dr. Eric Kandel

Columbia University and beyond

“I was receiving emails from Columbia University asking me to apply,” said Qvist.  “I thought they were sending them to the wrong person, but I thought, ‘What the heck?’ and applied.”

Qvist earned a bachelor of arts degree in biology from Columbia University in 2015. Today, she is a neuroscience research assistant in Nobel Prize winner Dr. Eric Kandel’s laboratory at Columbia University Medical Center. Qvist plans to apply to M.D./Ph.D. programs and ultimately practice medicine coupled with academic research.

“Our lab works with drugs, memory, addiction and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),” said Qvist. “I learn things every day about science and the brain. It is never dull. We are doing things that are important to the future and will eventually go into literature for other people to learn.”