When a soon-to-be Franklin College graduate hears talk about the Zika virus that is raising concerns about the safety of people attending this year’s summer Olympics, she thinks about ways to cure it.

That is exactly what KaLeigh Hurley hopes to do in the future after she earns her degree in microbiology.

Hurley wants to research and study all of the different ways bacteria and viruses affect the human body. Her ultimate goal: to create a vaccine or anti-virus.

“One of the main reasons I want to do this is because of the wonderful things we learn and accomplish from research,” Hurley said. “I want to be the one finding out how viruses affect something and create a vaccine, or resistance.”

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On Saturday, Hurley will don a cap and gown and have her name announced at Franklin College’s commencement ceremonies. Then, it will be time to start thinking about living arrangements and travel plans.

Hurley is going to Dublin, Ireland, for graduate school in the fall.

At University College Dublin, Hurley will be doing hands-on lab work and research. By heading overseas, Hurley will complete the graduate program in just one year, she said. In the United States, the same graduate program would take two or even three years, she said.

Hurley wanted to do pre-medical studies at Franklin College when she first arrived, but soon realized she didn’t want to be the one administering medicine and anti-viruses to patients, she said. Instead, she wanted to be in a lab studying the viruses and bacteria that harm people.

As a microbiologist, researching the Zika virus is the kind of work she would be doing, and she would love to work for the World Health Organization someday, she said. The WHO is leading a lot of the research to address the issues and health risks the Zika virus presents.

Her dream is to immerse herself into lengthy research for the greater good and health of humanity, she said.

“You’re working with a world you don’t see. I love research. I find myself absorbed in the work,” she said. “Staring into a microscope, I look up and I don’t even notice how much time has passed by. That’s what I always wanted, a career where it doesn’t ever feel like I’m actually working.”

Hurley always knew she wanted to do something science related. But it wasn’t until her sophomore year of high school that she knew she wanted to study biology at Franklin College, she said.

Dr. Sam Rhodes, a professor at Franklin College, visited Hurley’s high school class. Rhodes was friendly, funny and one of the smartest people she had ever met, Hurley said. Hurley remembers thinking that she wanted to go to school wherever he taught, she said. Hurley had Rhodes as a professor for two classes at Franklin College.

Shelbyville High School offered courses that also counted toward college credit at Franklin College. As the first in her family to attend college, planning and preparing was a first-time experience for everyone in her family, but earning credits early seemed like a good start, Hurley said.

Getting a degree wasn’t something Hurley felt like she had to do in order to find a job and make a living, she said. Her parents didn’t go to college, and both had careers they enjoyed. But as she became more attracted to microbiology, she and her family realized college would be necessary, she said.

“My family did things (for a living) they loved to do. The only path to my passion was going to college,” she said. “I don’t see a point in putting all this time and energy into Franklin and University College to not love what I do.”

The Hurley File

Name: KaLeigh Hurley

School: Franklin College

Major: Microbiology

GPA: 3.7

Hometown: Shelbyville

Post graduation plans: attending University College Dublin where she will complete one year of graduate school studying microbiology.

By the numbers

Here is a look at the Franklin College graduating class of 2016:

Number of graduates: 201

Males: 94

Females: 107

Countries represented: 5

States represented: 10

Three most popular majors: Biology, psychology, public relations

SOURCE: Franklin College

If you go

Here are details about the upcoming commencement ceremonies at Franklin College:

What: Franklin College baccalaureate address

When: 4:30 p.m., Friday

Where: Spurlock Center Gynmasium on the Franklin College campus

Speaker: Barbara Brown Taylor, New York Times best-selling and author and Episcopal priest

Admission: Free and open to the public

What: Franklin College commencement ceremony

When: 10 a.m., Saturday

Where: Spurlock Center Gymnasium on the Franklin College campus

Commencement speaker: Steve Alford, former Indiana University basketball player who is now the men’s basketball coach at UCLA.

Admission: Free and open to the public; seating is limited; tickets can be obtained through the Academic Affairs office at 317-738-8018

Author photo
Corey Elliot is a reporter at the Daily Journal. He can be reached at celliot@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2719.