Meet our newest Science Cheerleader, Allison. She cheered for NC State and the Philadelphia Eagles (captain for 2 years). She holds two degrees: biology and chemistry. While cheering for the Eagles, she was a preclinical scientist at Merck Research Laboratories. Today, she’s a Science Cheerleader who works for biotech company in Philly…and she’s loving it!
S.C.: What turned you on to science and when?
Allison: Ever since my very first science and math classes in elementary school, I was hooked. I always knew science would be a part of my life.
S.C.: What is your degree in and from where?
Allison: I have two bachelor’s degrees, Biology and Chemistry, from North Carolina State University.
S.C.: Two science degrees? May I have one? Ok, what was your favorite and/or least favorite courses you took to prepare for your degrees?
Allison: My literature requirement was by far my least favorite. I love to read, but writing is not my forte’, therefore, the numerous papers involved in this course were probably about as painful to me as Physical Chemistry would be to a History Major. My favorite course was Biochemistry. I am fascinated with the biological and chemical processes of the human body.
S.C.: When did you cheer for the Eagles?
Allison: I cheered for the Philadelphia Eagles from 2004-2008 (I was a team captain 2006-2008)
S.C.: I do believe our hometown made it to the Super Bowl during that time. Must have been so exciting! What were some other highlights?
Allison: In 2006, the Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleaders traveled to Hong Kong to perform in the Chinese New Year’s Parade. This was such an incredible experience. Not only did we get to perform in such a prestigious event, we were submerged into the Chinese culture for a week. Everyone was so hospitable and so proud of their culture. It was an incredible life and learning experience for all of us.
S.C.: Very cool! Now how about your best science-related experience, so far?
Allison: Immediately post-graduation in Raleigh, NC, I had the opportunity to work as a Study Director for a small research facility, Burleson Research Technologies. This was a family owned company, and they treated their employees as family too. I would have never learned as much as I did so quickly, if it weren’t for this position. They gave me the responsibility of running my own studies from start to finish, even submitting the reports to the FDA and/or pharmaceutical company who contracted the work. I had the honor of working with them as an intern while I was still in school, and then as a scientist until I moved to Pennsylvania to work for Merck. Because there were so few of us working on studies, we were able to learn multiple areas of research, and gain incredible experience in a very short time.
S.C.: So, which came first: Your interest in science or cheerleading?
Allison: It was separate, but simultaneous. My love for cheerleading was sparked by my sister, Karen. I idolized my sister, who cheered in college and helped establish and run a cheerleading camp. When I first fell in love with science, it was because I wanted to be just like my Dad, who was a physician. I was obviously a very impressionable child, but luckily, these interests became my own rather quickly.
S.C.: I bet your family is very proud of you. Tell me, did you find that stereotypes about cheerleaders helped or hindered your studies or professional experiences? (Were you taken seriously?)
Allison: I believe the typical cheerleader stereotype helped both my studies and professional experiences. People would always want to stereotype me, but once they got into a conversation and realized that the majority of us were so much more than just “Eagles Cheerleaders,” it really opened their eyes to what modern professional cheerleaders are. It was always such a great feeling to crush this stereotype.
S.C.: How did your fellow cheerleaders accept your interest in science?
Allison: They were very supportive! Every girl on the team was so much more than just a cheerleader. I could go on and on about how special each girl was that I was honored to cheer with, but that would take forever. Science was the thing that set me and a few of the other girls apart from cheerleading. It was truly a professional group of girls, and we all knew and respected what each girl had to offer beyond her dancing and cheerleading skills.
S.C.: Do you have any advice for youngsters who might feel torn between following one dream (cheerleading, etc) associated with beauty and following another (a Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math career) usually associated with, well, geeks?
Allison: My advice is to go for it all! There are so many of us who do it, and it is possible. It certainly takes a lot of dedication, but it is definitely worth it.
S.C.: Here, Here! Along these lines, what advice would you give your 12-year-old self?
Allison: At 12, like most girls, I was not the person I am today. It took me until my adult years to truly be comfortable in my own skin. At some point, you will truly be yourself, so, you should start doing it now. It doesn’t matter if you fit in with one particular crowd, in the long run, it really won’t matter.
S.C.: What are your plans for the future?
Allison: I really enjoy surgical sales. I love the pace of the operating room. Having the opportunity to work with surgeons everyday, and share the benefits of my product is very rewarding. I am constantly learning, which is very important to me. The surgical device industry is constantly changing, and keeps me on my toes. As far as cheerleading goes, I have been very active with the NFL Alumni Cheerleaders-Philadelphia Chapter, and I continue to take dance lessons and network with other alumni. I have no doubt that cheerleading and science will always continue to be a part of my life, especially now that I am a Science Cheerleader helping to inspire the next generation of scientists!
S.C.: You sure are, Allison! Thanks for your time and welcome aboard!