“It was fabulous. It was so flexible. I would take an exam sometimes at 11:00 p.m. or 7:00 a.m. or on my lunch break.” – Ashleigh Keller, online microbiology master’s program graduate
As a senior associate scientist for a Denver, Colorado-area biotech firm, Ashleigh Keller is accustomed to having her hands full. While continuing crucial work developing therapeutic antibodies for diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, she also managed to complete UF’s online master’s degree in microbiology and cell science. Barely three months after graduation, Keller kindly took time out from her busy schedule to explain the distinctive advantages that made our online microbiology degree her program of choice and how it helped her land her “dream job.”
Finding Relevance, Convenience and Affordability in UF’s Online Program
“I wanted to move ahead in my career and get the science foundation that I was missing in my undergraduate degree,” Keller said, explaining her motivation for returning to school. “I was working in a lab, but I did not have the actual academic instruction behind me.” So, Keller set about searching for a master’s degree program — her second — that would be directly applicable to her career. “I did a basic Google search and UF was one that came up. I knew that they had a good program there, but I had no idea how big it was.” Keller had already considered at least one program closer to home.
When Keller compared UF with other programs, a clear winner emerged. “I chose UF for a couple of reasons,” she explained. “I really liked the courses that they offered. I feel like they were really relevant to what I do.”
Achieving a Work-Life-Education Balance
Keller’s concerns about having adequate time to simultaneously work and complete a degree quickly dissipated. “I wasn’t planning on necessarily finishing in 18 months. I kind of was working out, ‘How is this going to work out with my life? How much time am I actually going to have?’ And I think [it was possible] because [UF’s program] was so flexible. My dog gets me up at 5:00 a.m. I don’t have to be at work until 9:00, so I’ve got 2 1/2 hours there that I can just spend doing schoolwork. That made it so I could finish quicker.”
Keller was particularly impressed with her program’s faculty. “The quality of the instructors was above my expectations for an online environment. Dr. Gurley and Dr. Keyhani were excellent. They were very engaging speakers. Both of them were funny. I think both had this way of making some sort of comparison to everyday life and then relating it back to the material, which made me remember things better. It was easier for me to grasp. And they were both very responsive to questions. I would ask a simple question and they would answer about three others I had.”
Getting help from faculty was never a challenge, as Keller recalled. “The professors were completely accommodating. Whenever I reached out, 99% of them were getting back to me within one day. And most of them much sooner than that. They were holding office hours at lots of different time slots. They made it so I didn’t really even think about the fact that I was in a different time zone, because I didn’t have to. When I needed to get in touch with somebody, when I needed to do what I needed to do with the lectures, [help] was just there. It was available.”
Keller found some of the classwork itself challenging but ultimately rewarding, citing one class in particular: “I hate to say this because it was a hard class, but Bioinformatics. Definitely a class a lot of my colleagues haven’t taken, and it has given me an edge. It’s necessary in today’s world.”
Landing Her “Dream Job”
Our microbiology master’s degree program quickly transformed Keller’s career, as she explained: “The job that I was at while I was doing the program, I was promoted during that time, and the fact that I was getting the master’s was one of the reasons they gave me for doing that. And then I recently started a new position, which is kind of my dream job. The feedback that I got when I was hired was, ‘First of all, we were really impressed that you were working full time and got your master’s in 18 months,’ which was hard — I’m not going to lie — but it was definitely doable.”
Encouraging Prospective Students
Keller clearly had a positive experience earning her microbiology master’s degree online with UF and felt others would benefit from doing the same: “I understand my work so much better [now] and I can actually contribute insightful and useful ideas to my team. I’m really glad I did the program. It’s a great value for the education I received! It’s worth it. It will go by faster than you think, and you’ll miss learning when you’re done!”
Like Ashleigh Keller, you can experience the many benefits of an online master’s degree in microbiology and cell science from UF! Get details about the program and application process here.