Scientific Ambition: Abigail Duke

Scientific Ambition: Abigail Duke

Abigail DukeNews, Sciences, Student Life

My path to science is not a typical one. I am the second oldest of eight children all born within the span of 12 years. I was homeschooled along with all my siblings. When I could confidently read on my own, I was tasked with teaching my younger siblings.

When I was five years old, I started TaeKwonDo, and when I was 11, my TaeKwonDo instructor asked me to train under him as his assistant instructor. I started dancing at two years old, and when I was almost 16, I became the head dance instructor of a performing arts academy.

With this background, it’s easy to see that teaching others always came naturally to me. The sciences also fascinated me, so I decided to go into secondary education with a certification in biology from the School of Education at the University of Mobile. 


At UM, I gained professional experience in education through a field experience teaching in a middle school. My summer plans between my junior and senior year were to be a camp counselor, but a lot of my science major friends were talking about applying to summer internships to help gain experience in their field. My UM science professors in the College of Arts and Sciences (Drs. Ashley Lindsey, Wanda Jones and Salomon Itza) encouraged me to apply for a summer research program at the University of South Alabama, and I was accepted. 

My summer research was measuring the forces of human airway smooth muscles cells (HASMCs) when they are given different treatments. HASMCs are the muscles that control the size of the diameter of the bronchial airways in the lungs, so if they contract, they cause the airway to become smaller. What my project focused on was measuring just how much HASMCs contract when treated with different concentrations of the contractors. The data collected by this experiment would be used to make better drugs to treat respiratory illnesses.

Through the lab experience, I got a taste of what it takes to get a Ph.D. in biomedical science. Now, I want to get my Ph.D. and get a post-doctorate (or two), then look for opportunities to teach. 


If there is one word that describes me, it would be “ambition.” At the University of Mobile, my ambition is met with wonderful people who want me to go as far as I am willing to put in the effort to go. My peers and I are constantly excited to share what new ideas and projects we want to accomplish with the professors who want to help us get there.

At UM, the phrase “Know and Be Known” means that there are people who will invest their time, energy and resources to help me learn about all the possibilities of what I can do, as well as helping me go where I want to go. 

At a different university, I wonder if my ambition would have been met with many people trying to help me be “realistic,” and end up discouraging me from exploring new directions and following my calling. Ambitiousness is a big part of who I am, and my experience at the University of Mobile as a student has helped to foster that in me. I cannot wait for the next stepping stone in my journey. I know that my life will be a wonderful cycle of learning, growing, teaching, and making a positive change in the world.

About the University of Mobile

The University of Mobile is a Christ-centered university offering on-campus and online bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in over 75 academic programs. Founded in 1961, the University of Mobile is affiliated with the Alabama Baptist State Convention and is located 10 miles north of Mobile, Alabama on a campus of over 880 acres.

For information about the University of Mobile, areas of study, admissions and more, visit, connect with UM on social media @univofmobile, or call Enrollment Services at 1.800.WIN.RAMS or 251.442.2222.