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Astrid Meenan presents her research.
Astrid stands with poster presentation.

Graduating senior found community, inspiration with Orion LLC

As a first-year student, Astrid Meenan found a sense of community residing in the Orion Living-Learning Community, dedicated to students studying science and located in New Residence Hall East.

Before graduating in May, Meenan recounted late nights working with other science students on chemistry homework and spending warm days gathering in study groups on the Drillfield. From Springfield, Virginia, Meenan said, “Finding your community is essential to being successful at Virginia Tech. Examine your crowd and see if it aligns with your goals so that you spend your time wisely. Keep an open mind to opportunities. Don’t automatically think it’s not for you or that just ‘other people do that.’ Virginia Tech opened so many opportunities for me.”

Meenan’s opportunities were plentiful. She double majored in biological sciences and biochemistry, and held double minors in chemistry and Spanish.

Astrid poses in front of wall with tweed jacket and white blouse.
Astrid Meenan.

With Orion, Meenan developed a profound love for mentoring students, and became a “super mentor” — a mentor to other science mentors in Orion. She also served as a mentor to underrepresented high school students participating in a summer program sponsored by Georgetown University School of Medicine’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Meenan was part of a team who designed classes, took students to shadow physicians, and supported the students in presenting their research projects.

Among the event’s highlights, Meenan said end-of-program surveys showed that all of the high school students plan to attend college. At the program’s start, only half said they were considering college.

Meenan also participated in undergraduate lab research, working in the Department of Biochemistry. There, Meenan studied a mutated gene thought to be part of a vital pathway in plants that processes inositol phosphate, which plays a crucial role in the growth, function, and movement of cells.

She also was a student fellow representing biochemistry with InclusiveVT’s Inclusive Excellence program. As a fellow, Meenan participated in focus groups, shared ideas with fellows from other majors, and created profiles of successful scientists from underrepresented groups to inspire science students. 

Meenan also volunteered as an EMT for the Blacksburg Rescue Squad, served as the volunteer coordinator for the Virginia Tech Chapter of the Foundation of International Medical Relief for Children, worked as a teaching assistant for Associate Professor Richard Helm of biochemistry, and traveled to Uruguay in May 2017 to shadow physicians and enhance her Spanish speaking skills.

Meenan is now participating in the one-year, post-baccalaureate Georgetown Experimental Medical Studies program, ahead of going to medical school at Georgetown University. “No matter where I go, I will forever be a Hokie,” she said.

For an expanded story on Astrid Meenan’s experience at both Virginia Tech and the Georgetown University School of Medicine’s summer program, visit:

Class of 2020: Biochemistry and biology major encourages students to gain experience while finding their own way.