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August 14, 2020

Chemistry Major Olivia Eldridge ’20 Finds Chemistry with UM

By Lindsay Schluntz 

Olivia Eldridge developed her vision for the future the first time she set foot on Montevallo’s campus.  

The small class sizes, generous scholarships and chances to work with faculty members on undergraduate research projects were major factors in her decision to attend UM.  

She attributes part of the success of her journey at UM to the various extracurricular learning programs she’s taken advantage of.  

In addition to the organizations related to her major, including Chemistry Club, Pre-Health Professions Society and Math Club, Eldridge has been a member of Montevallo Masters, Civitans, the Honors Program and served in the roles of president, vice president, executive secretary and Freshman Forum vice president of SGA. 

Eldridge describes serving as SGA president as being one of the most transformative experiences of her life.  

“I ran for president because of my love for Montevallo and my desire to help students. I never imagined how much this position would allow me to grow personally and professionally,” she said. 

“Throughout the year, I’ve learned a great deal about time management, event planning, conflict resolution and administrative processes,” she said.  

Eldridge’s academic journey at Montevallo has opened up opportunities to impact the global medical community.  

Last summer, Eldridge took her classroom research to the next level through an internship at Harvard University Medical School. This internship was made possible through a partnership with one of UM’s distinguished alumni, Dr. Richard Cummings ’74.   

At Harvard, Eldridge conducted research focused on synthesizing a peptide that is present in various types of cancer cells. Her goal is to discover a way to prevent the peptide from causing tumor growth.  

That peptide binds to a receptor on red blood cells which, in short, causes tumor growth… Our hope is that if we can synthesize the peptide, we can discover how it is binding to the receptor and potentially stop it,” she explained. “This would stop red blood cells from feeding the cancer cells.” 

Eldridge’s research could prove to be a breakthrough in the worldwide fight against cancer. 

“I’m so thankful that the University and Dr. Cummings allowed me to have this opportunity to solidify my dreams for the future,” she said.  

After graduation from UM, Olivia will attend graduate school to earn her doctorate in chemistry, but first, she will be returning to Harvard this summer to continue working on more research. She aims to continue the progress of her research while learning even more lab techniques and making more connections in the professional research community. 

“Looking back, I am so thankful that I came to Montevallo,” Eldridge said.