Meghan Harrison pursues undergraduate research after receiving Lyme Disease diagnosis

Lyme Disease diagnosis leads Homecoming Queen Meghan Harrison to undergrad research

Biochemistry senior Meghan Harrison has participated in some amazing research projects around the country, but she never would’ve had the opportunity if not for the experience she first gained at The University of Tulsa. In 2016, she conducted materials research at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida and last summer studied in a microbiology and immunology laboratory at the Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia.

Learn more about majoring in biochemistry.

Harrison’s research interests are personal—she was diagnosed with Lyme Disease in 2009 after a severe and lengthy illness. “At my sickest, I had six months of complete amnesia where I didn’t have any short-term memory at all,” she says. “It’s an absolutely debilitating disease, and that is why I was so interested in doing research on it this past summer.”

meghan harrisonHer case was complicated by two additional tick-borne diseases, but expert physicians found the right treatment. Harrison became a patient advocate, speaking in the Pennsylvania Senate, organizing large-scale fundraisers and participating in related research. Her summer at Drexel University involved dissecting ticks to study the micro-biome and diseases they carried. “What we found was incredible. The number of diseases that just one tick can carry is astounding. The research I worked on this summer was actually presented at the Columbia University/LDA Lyme Conference in September. To have the opportunity to work with Dr. Garth Ehrlich and his team who are as passionate as me and to be able to pair my advocacy work with science and research is something I will always treasure,” she says.

The support Harrison has received at TU from faculty such as Assistant Professor of Chemistry Erin Iski gives her the confidence to take on such ambitious research. She has always loved science and math and changed her major from chemical engineering to biochemistry her sophomore year. “I was taking a fluid mechanics course and realized the time I enjoyed it most was when it related to how blood flowed in the veins,” Harrison says. “Switching to biochemistry was probably one of the best decisions I made here.”

meghan harrison
Harrison was crowned TU Homecoming Queen in October 2017.

But Harrison’s achievements at TU are not limited to academics. She has been active in the Student Association since her freshman year, serving as an Executive Director for university events, concerts and meetings. She is a member of Chi Omega, participates in Panhellenic activities and is a Chief Justice on SA’s judicial council. One highlight of her senior year was being named Homecoming Queen. “I was not expecting it,” she says. “TU is really a family and a home. You can walk into any club on campus and be friends with those people whether they are majoring in the arts, science or business.”

Her involvement in student government judicial affairs has Harrison thinking about the next step after her bachelor’s degree; she plans to attend law school and work toward a career in patent law or as a judge. “I’m very excited to see how I can use science and law together,” she says. “I love investigating and getting to the truth. That’s something I really care about.”

Originally from Philadelphia, Harrison never dreamed she would live in Oklahoma, but when her uncle, a TU electrical engineering alumnus, encouraged her to make a stop in Tulsa on a college road trip she agreed. She says the students and faculty made TU one of her favorite college visits. “I’ve genuinely fallen in love with Oklahoma. Tulsa is one of the most dynamic cities. It’s so fun and growing so much, and I love that. However, the real Tulsa gems are the incredible people I’ve met through my college journey.”