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College News

Pursuing a Ph.D. after finding an educational foundation at CLC

by Public Relations and Marketing | Published Mar 30, 2021

College of Lake County (CLC) graduate Carris Borland was the first of her family to attend college. In fact, she was the first of her family to attend school in the U.S. Soon after she graduated high school in 2015, her mother moved her and her siblings to Lake County all the way from Belize; a small country in Central America which shares borders with Mexico and Guatemala. Like many who immigrate here, her family was in search of a better life.

Carris Borland using a microscope

“Back home we were struggling, and my mom had the opportunity to bring her kids over here,” said Borland. “She wanted to give her kids better educational opportunities to be able to have a career one day. That was something very motivating for me.”

Photo: Carris Borland investigating Parkinson's disease mechanisms in her research lab at Lake Forest College. (Photo courtesy of Ian Blank)

Borland channeled that motivation into her college studies, which she began at CLC in spring 2016.

“Coming from a third-world country I wanted to get used to everything,” said Borland. “Starting off at a friendly community college was a very good choice for me.”

Two years later Borland graduated with a Pre-Medicine A.A. and a solidified set of goals. 

“I had no idea where I wanted to go when I started at CLC. My goal at that point was just to do well so I could be able to transfer later,” said Borland. “I took advantage of the guaranteed transfer between College of Lake County and Lake Forest College. I would like to become a molecular neuroscientist.”

Three years later Borland is well on her way to achieving that dream. As a senior at Lake Forest College, she has applied to enter some of the most well-reputed neuroscience Ph.D. programs across the country. As of this writing, nine have granted her interviews while, so far, four have offered her acceptance including Johns Hopkins University, University of Chicago, Northwestern University and University of Pennsylvania. Professor of Biology Dr. Shubhik DebBurman, her academic advisor and research mentor at Lake Forest College, is not surprised.

“From the very beginning Carris stood out in the classroom for her academic engagement and her critical thinking, analytical skills and research abilities,” said DebBurman. “As part of doing research in my lab she wrote a national grant and received money to support her senior thesis because the proposed ideas were deemed novel and significant. Having taught for 20 years at the college you know when you see something special. I have rarely seen this type of work ethic and resolve.”

Later this year Borland will present the findings of her senior thesis research on Parkinson’s disease mechanisms at the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s national meeting, and this work will part of a future peer-reviewed publication on which she will be a co-author. Its research funded by the national neuroscience honor society, Nu Rho Psi. Each of these incredible accomplishments mark one more step towards her career goals.

“I am hoping to become a medical scientist one day where I would work alongside physicians and other scientists to try and come up with treatments and develop medicines for various diseases of the brain and spinal cord such as Parkinson’s disease,” said Borland.

While Dr. DebBurman says Borland is an extraordinarily gifted science student, he quickly adds he is not surprised she began her college career at CLC.

“Carris is in a long list of students from CLC that first do their associate degrees and then come to us. I actively look forward very much to students from CLC,” said DebBurman. “We recruit them because we know they are going to succeed at the college, and they’re going to bring the right skills and attitudes to move on to post-graduate degrees and careers while striving for the highest. In recent years, our CLC-LFC graduates have headed for doctoral programs in a wide array health-related disciplines, including neuroscience, molecular biology, pharmacy, medicine, dental medicine, and more. I hope to see this pipeline grow even more because of our new Health Professions Program that features many new Dual-Degree pathways with health professional graduate programs at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Sciences.”

“As an immigrant, CLC really helped me to get used to the American way of life, the American way of education. It was a really good starting point for me, and it definitely helped me to grow as a student,” said Borland. “When you take advantage of everything CLC has to offer you will become successful. I can say that from experience.”

Learn more about CLC’s guaranteed transfer partnerships with four-year institutions.

About College of Lake County

College of Lake County is a comprehensive community college committed to equitable high-quality education, cultural enrichment and partnerships to advance the diverse communities it serves in northeastern Illinois. Offered at three campuses in Grayslake, Vernon Hills and Waukegan or online, college classes are affordable and accessible to help each student achieve academic, career and personal goals. More than 70,000 students graduated with degrees and certificates since the college opened in 1969. The College of Lake County is the only higher-education institution ranked among the top 15 best places to work in Illinois by Forbes and is a national leader in many areas, including sustainability and conservation.