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Meet the Grads: Molly Sherlock

Molly Sherlock

No two paths to graduation are alike.

For Molly Sherlock, the path took 10 years long than she anticipated.

“I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that the first time I attempted college nearly ten years ago, I failed miserably and immediately dropped out after my first semester,” she said. “I think it’s important to share this facet of my educational experience because it highlights the fact that there are many routes to success, and sometimes failure is a part of the journey.”

Returning to West Virginia University in 2017, Sherlock found her niche and flourished academically in the forest resources management program.

“I think it’s important to study a subject you’re passionate about. Everything else will sort of fall into place,” she said. “I’ve always had an interest in the outdoors. I’m fascinated by ecosystems and the role forest managers can play in mitigating impacts of climate change.”

To better understand that role, Sherlock worked with Brendan McNeil, associate professor of geography in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, on an undergraduate research project studying the effects of drought stress on stomatal conductance.

“In order to photosynthesize, trees must take in carbon dioxide through pores on their leaves called stomates. Various gas exchanges occur through these pores, including transpiration, in which trees lose water vapor into the atmosphere,” she said. “Trees can open and close their stomata in response to various external stimuli. We wanted to see how drought conditions would influence stomatal regulation in two different tree species to evaluate their unique water management strategies.”

Named one of WVU’s outstanding seniors, Sherlock plans to continue her education as a plant pathology graduate student studying forest diseases. Afterward, she hopes to work in the field of forest health researching pathogens and insects that harm trees and degrade ecosystems.
What has been your most meaningful experience at WVU?

I’ve formed so many meaningful friendships and professional relationships through my experience at WVU. I’ve built a strong network and I’m surrounded by so many like-minded people that sometimes I forget that most folks don’t like talking about trees for an hour.

If you could trade places with one person for a day, who would it be and why?

I would trade places with an astronaut on the International Space Station. I think it would be pretty cool, at least for the first hour or so, before the ensuing chaos and panic of having no idea how to actually live in orbit or how a space ship even works.

What is one thing you would have done differently during college?

I wish I would have asked for help more often. When I first went back to school I was concerned that professors would be annoyed if I asked too many questions or visited during office hours, which couldn’t be further from the truth. I wish I would have figured that out earlier because my life got a lot easier once I became comfortable with asking for help.

What one piece of advice would you share with future students?

Don’t be afraid to ask for help or reiteration if you’re having trouble understanding something!

Your final semester of college obviously didn’t go as planned. How did you stay focused? What lessons did you learn?

I had to suddenly leave home and adjust to a completely new routine in a completely different state. I was initially very upset and anxious, but eventually had to accept that none of this is in my control. Everyone is doing the best they can. I’ve learned to relax a little bit and take things one day at a time. I’m fortunate that my current situation is much better than some other students have it, and I hope those students receive the support they need over the next few months.