Female chemistry students thrive at TU

Tori StaffordThirty of the 36 freshmen in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry during the 2015-16 academic year were female. One of the young women is Tori Stafford, a biochemistry major from Van Buren, Ark. She is one of the many reasons a growing number of women are joining core science fields.

The gritty wind blows Stafford’s long brunette ponytail across her face as she crouches down with her glove to anticipate the next pitch. A sophomore utility player and first baseman for the Golden Hurricane Softball Team, she is a fierce opponent on the field and an even stronger competitor in the classroom.

After visiting TU for a summer softball camp during high school, Stafford fell in love with the campus and its academic programs. An offer to play softball at the collegiate level was icing on the cake.

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“TU’s class sizes suited my need for intimate studies and the ability to develop relationships with the professors, so I could get help anytime,” Stafford said. “I knew they would remember my name and give me a great opportunity to succeed later in graduate school.”

With an ultimate goal of becoming a pharmacist, Stafford understands the enormous amount of dedication her education will require over the next few years. She’s always enjoyed math in school and wanted a career where she could use science to help people. Stafford said pharmacy is her calling.

“I want to connect with people and be the bright moment in their day,” she said. “They can leave the store with a smile on their face and the hope things will get better.”

Until pharmacy school, Stafford’s biochemistry classes and softball schedule will keep her busy. Although she said it can be difficult to keep up with homework while traveling to games, the team’s academic adviser helps everyone stay focused. Stafford is experienced at handling pressure and keeping a meticulous routine. She played classical piano for 12 years, performed dance for 13 and enjoys the motivational spirit of outdoor activities such as hiking and rock climbing.

“I like doing anything that involves competition,” she said. “My main goal in life is to inspire people and change lives.”

When she’s not playing softball, taking guitar lessons or participating in residence hall government activities, Stafford has her nose in the books preparing for the future. Although biochemistry is historically dominated by males, she’s not intimidated.

“You feel smarter because you are a girl, and you’re in all of those classes,” she said. “I can say ‘I’m as smart as him,’ and let that be a confidence builder.”

Stafford is one of the many diversified and ambitious students blazing her own trail not only in biochemistry, but also in the field of science. As a student-athlete, she skillfully juggles the demands of softball and academics in preparation for her pharmacy career.

“With the right attitude and persistence, we can achieve anything in life,” she said. “If people can believe that, my goals will be met.”