Daughtry St. John: B.S. in Neuroscience

Feeling at home in Georgia Tech

Daughtry Grace St. John hails from Columbus, Georgia. An only child, she was raised by parents who taught her to be kind always, to serve others, and to never give up.

Growing up, Daughtry was into karate, science, and service. “As soon as I could walk, I toddled up to houses to hand meals to people on my church’s Meals on Wheels program,” Daughtry says. At age 12, she earned her second-degree black belt. In sixth grade, she was awarded “Best of Fair” at the science fair.

During her years at Harris County High School, in Hamilton, Georgia, Daughtry visited her grandmother, who lived in a nursing home. “I met many residents during my visits,” she says. “The relationships I built inspired what I want to do with my life, which is help others who can’t help themselves.”

She played volleyball and tennis. She joined academic organizations. She attended the Georgia Governor’s Honors Program in 2014 as a chemistry major.

For college, Daughtry was interested in pre-med, specifically how brain processes affect behavior. Georgia Tech was not her first choice. She attended the University of Georgia (UGA) as a double major in biochemistry and molecular biology. During her second semester, she felt something was off.

“Every time I’d walk into a room, I felt out of place,” Daughtry says. “I later figured out that this wasn’t because this university was a bad place, but because it wasn’t MY place to be.” 

Meanwhile she visited friends at Georgia Tech. “My conversations at Georgia Tech were different than anywhere else,” she says. “In each visit, I felt the energy. I felt the innovative spirit and the unwavering drive. Most of all, I felt at home. My gut told me that I would be more challenged here than anywhere else. So I transferred! I haven’t regretted it for a single second.”

In 2017, Georgia Tech launched the B.S. degree in neuroscience. Daughtry switched major and started the Neuroscience Student Advisory Board. The board advises faculty on what’s working in the program and what’s falling flat. It enabled her to help shape the program’s future direction.

“We are lucky that the neuroscience program is receptive to and excited about student feedback,” Daughtry says. “This endeavor helped me realize that, even as a student, I can impact my own education and that of others in a positive way.”

With her B.S. degree in neuroscience, Daughtry plans to continue a life of service as a physician.

I’ve never worried about my medical care or what would happen to me in case of an accident,” she says. “However, some people do worry, and even avoid medical care because of costs. This hurts me, and I want to do my part to help alleviate this insecurity and pain.

“I realized that my ability to go to college, to think clearly, to live without pain, and even to walk are not afforded to everyone. This wake-up call will be invaluable in the medical field.”

What attracted you to Georgia Tech?
Conversations outside the classroom challenged me to learn more about the world. I saw an opportunity to develop relationships with people who were different from me. The intellectual vitality and diversity of thought and background – as well as the passion of every student – pushed me outside my comfort zone. Everyone has a fierce desire to make a difference and make the world better.

Which professor made a big impact on you?
Dr. John Cressler, who teaches Science, Engineering, and Religion – An Interfaith Dialogue.

The course of 20 students from 80+ applicants offers a unique experience. Dr. Cressler chooses students for diversity of religious background, life experiences, and what he calls “world view.” He creates an open environment for students to discuss, debate, and reflect upon some of the world’s biggest issues – including extraterrestrial life, just war, and the role of women. Sometimes I left class feeling calm and fulfilled; other times I left with a knot in my stomach and some heavy questions to wrestle with.

Dr. Cressler is one of the kindest, most invested professors I’ve ever met. He’s a mentor and a friend. With this class, he brings out the more human side of students. We all have beliefs, values, and core foundations upon which we build our lives. Why not share them with others?

Dr. Regan Lawson taught Principles of Neuroscience, the first core neuroscience class I took. After our first test, she reviewed studying and test-taking strategies with me. She reminded me that neuroscience majors should be the best “studiers” at Georgia Tech because we know the importance of sleep and balance in our lives.

This meeting, and subsequent meetings and encouragement from her, helped change my approach to academics – from learning to achieve a grade to learning because I loved it.

What is your most vivid memory of Georgia Tech?
At the UGA vs. Georgia Tech football game in November 2015, I was a UGA student, dressed in black and red. I stood across the stadium from the Georgia Tech students’ section.

At the end of the third quarter, I looked over at the Georgia Tech students’ section. All of them were bobbing up and down, like a swarm of yellow jackets. I couldn’t tell why but I knew in that moment that I belonged at Georgia Tech.

What unique learning activities did you undertake?
I attended EMT (emergency medical technician) training under a program for college students that packed five months of classes into eight weeks.

Working in Grady Memorial Hospital’s Level 1 trauma center in downtown Atlanta was intense. I had never before witnessed real trauma, medical crises, or deaths. The adrenaline is insane. I often came out shaking, but confident in my passion for helping people and eager to start serving the Atlanta community.

The EMT training confirmed my decision to become a physician. It also made me realize how incredibly privileged I am and I want to use that privilege to serve others.

What advice would you give to incoming undergraduate students at Georgia Tech?
Encourage one another. Lift people up instead of tearing them down.

You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first.

What is the most important thing you learned at Georgia Tech?
Things don’t always go as planned, and that’s okay. What matters is responding with tenacity and adapting to new circumstances.

Embrace change in plans rather than fight it. The lessons I learned, and the experience I gained, from plans gone awry have been the most rewarding of my college career. 

What are your proudest achievements at Georgia Tech?
I’m proudest for thriving at Georgia Tech despite so much uncertainty in the beginning. Transferring is hard. I struggled in my classes during my first year, and I struggled to find involvements that aligned with my passions.

I’m proud for continually challenging myself to learn differently so that I could excel in my classes.

I’m proud of how I let go of commitments for which my impact was insignificant.

I’m proud of overcoming doubt and the “imposter syndrome.”

In what ways did your time at Georgia Tech transform your life?
Georgia Tech brought me people who pushed me out of my comfort zone, challenged me to broaden my perspective, and supported me unconditionally. These people are my friends, mentors, professors, advisors, and even acquaintances in various classes and organizations.

At Georgia Tech I became a more understanding and well-rounded person. The world isn’t made up of people who are all like me. The people I met taught me to love and learn from people different from myself.

Where are you headed after graduation?
I plan to work as an EMT in Atlanta for a couple of years before heading to medical school. The rigorous and interdisciplinary education I received from Georgia Tech will serve me well in medical school.