“Newman changed the course of my life,” said Camden Hoover ‘18.
When she was still a high school student, Hoover longed to be a psychiatrist. She was fascinated by psychology and looked forward to both speaking with patients about their struggles and treating them clinically. So when it came time to enter college at Newman, Hoover decided to major in biology.
Hoover, a biology graduate with an emphasis in biomedical research, describes her time at Newman as “the busiest I’ve ever been in my entire life.” But, she said, “it set a good precedent for the rest of my life.”
Through her courses, she fell in love with the research and critical thinking required for the biology degree but ruled out medical school. She was introduced to the idea of a Ph.D., “which I was told would foster my love for scientific research, critical thinking and creativity in project/experimental design,” she said.
“Drs. Jeni Gifford and Michael Bradley (associate professor of biology) were monumental in helping me find a career path that was right for me.”
Hoover looked up to Professor Gifford, who at the time was a recent Ph.D. graduate from Notre Dame. She decided that if Notre Dame could produce “such an intelligent, empowering and talented scientist like Jeni,” she wanted a chance to be a part of that and chose to apply. In February 2019, she was one of 50 interviewees who competed for 12 spots in the Ph.D. program at Notre Dame, where she moved just two days after graduating from Newman.
Today, Hoover proudly wears her Newman lab coat — “the highest quality lab coat I’ve come across in any lab I’ve ever worked in” — as she participates in a competitive three-year research fellowship from the National Institutes of Health. Through the fellowship, Hoover continues to explore microglia (the immune cells of the brain) in the lab of Cody Smith, the Elizabeth and Michael Gallagher Associate Professor of Biological Sciences.
“I study a novel population of microglia that my lab discovered (published in Nature Neuroscience in 2022),” Hoover explained. “It’s critical to understand the fundamental processes by which microglia operate so that we can detect what is going wrong in disease and understand how to restore their proper functions.”
Her hands-on research experiences at Newman were “absolutely pivotal” for her current research success. Hoover’s Newman professors and courses allowed her to build confidence and familiarity with the field so that she was fully prepared to enter graduate school at Notre Dame.
Not only did she experience intellectual training from academics, but also physical training as a member of the cheer and dance team under coach Brandy Muncy. Additionally, Hoover gained “mental training from balancing athletics, academics and multiple jobs on the side to pay for school.”
“Outside of my science courses, I also found extreme value in my Newman Studies Program courses as well as a philosophy course I took,” Hoover said. “I became mindful and consciously aware of myself and my own life while at Newman, and that has propelled me into a more joyous life than I ever knew possible.”
She also met her husband at Newman, who was born in the eastern European country of Albania but grew up in London.
“From meeting my husband, I’ve traveled all over Europe and been immersed in cultures I used to dream of experiencing,” she said. “I thank Newman for being such a diverse university where I was able to meet and interact with not only my Albanian/English husband but also people from South America, Asia and other parts of Europe. I would not have been able to finish my bachelor’s degree or be so successful in my Ph.D. without his support.”
Hoover knows that hard work pays off, and is excited to continue working in the ever-evolving field of science. She is actively looking for jobs in Wichita, as “Wichita is a fantastic city to live in.”
“I have an immense passion for new discoveries,” she said. “I am excited I’ve made a career for myself in a field where I get to learn new information about our bodies and the world around us for the rest of my life.”