“This program will allow me to focus not only on research but also teaching, being an effective science communicator, as well as a scientist,” said Finney.
Alicia began her college journey at Nashua Community College (NCC) as a 22-year-old freshman in 2013, where she studied liberal arts with a concentration in science.
Alicia was interested in pursuing a career as a physician’s assistant. “When I was a student, most life science courses were geared toward chemistry, so I took several classes with NCC Professor, Dr. Aliyar Mousavi. Dr. Mousavi is an incredibly kind, patient and supportive person and became an important mentor for me during my community college years,” she said.
“One of the most precious aspects of teaching chemistry is to see the progress made by students like Alicia,” said Dr. Mousavi, adding they first met in the Introduction to Chemistry class. “I remember how seriously she took her science education and enjoyed working with her as the founder and president of the Science Club. I am extremely pleased to know she is about to start her Ph.D. program.”
Alicia also took Microbiology and Genetics with Dr. Steve Laken. “It was these classes that made me consider research as an alternative to healthcare.”
After transferring to UNH Manchester through the community college transfer pathway, she met Dr. Kristen Johnson, with whom she conducted her undergraduate research in pancreatic cancer biology. “It was my work with her that solidified how well-suited and fulfilled I would be with a career in academia, conducting research and mentoring young scientists.”
After graduating from UNH Manchester in 2018, Alicia interned at Dartmouth in clinical molecular pathology, worked with Dr. Laken on a biotech startup project and taught biology at Phillips Academy in Andover, MA. “These experiences helped me narrow down the subject area to molecular biology – which, oddly enough, is still an enormous category,” she said.
Many years prior, Alicia attended high school in Nashua but did not graduate. “I grew up in a severely socio-economically disadvantaged home and had always struggled in school. By the time ninth grade rolled around, I was so academically behind from years of unaddressed underperformance that I stopped attending high school a few weeks into sophomore year, and no one asked me to return.”
After years of restaurant and retail jobs, she got a position in a dental clinic where her colleagues encouraged her to pursue a GED. “I earned my GED at age 21, and at 22, I enrolled at NCC thinking, at first, that I might complete a course or two, perhaps earn a certificate or two and move on.”
“I am now 30 years old, and it has been a long and incredible journey. I am so excited and grateful for the opportunities I’ve had and those who believed in and supported me.”