As the world seeks normalcy during this extended period of uncertainty caused by the pandemic, Emily McGee, a 2012 graduate of Cumberland County College (CCC) — now Rowan College of South Jersey (RCSJ) — is playing a significant role in helping to save lives. McGee, a research microbiologist with a top pharmaceutical company located in southeastern Pennsylvania, is among a group of scientists who perform comprehensive research on a wide array of emerging viruses – including the coronavirus.
“It's all part of the daily routine in my line of work," said McGee, who is also an alumna of Rowan University. “I perform Microbiological Examination Testing on products including vaccines and antiviral medications. I make sure that the products are not contaminated with microorganisms and test storage conditions/shelf life to ensure that the products remain free of harmful bacteria and fungi after it leaves our manufacturing facilities."
When McGee enrolled at Cumberland, she initially selected STEM courses in the hopes of going into Radiology; however, “After my first Biology course, I was hooked," admitted the scientist. “Then when I got to Microbiology, I just knew it was the path I wanted to follow."
RCSJ Assistant Professor of Microbiology Dr. Mark Randa has fond memories of McGee and holds his former student in high regard. “Emily was an extremely dedicated student. She was a pleasure to have in class," Dr. Randa said. “She was a mother, a wife, and a student all at the same time. I had Emily in my Introduction to Biology class. She was the top student in the class and was always making connections."
McGee enhanced her networking skill set on the Cumberland campus, which ultimately led to positive results for the married mother of three and her classmates.
“In my second year on campus, I became a Supplemental Instructor for Biology I and Microbiology," said McGee. “I was able to tutor my fellow students and at the same time reinforce my own knowledge of the subjects. I forged friendships with the students I helped, and we are still friends to this day."
McGee is a fine illustration of a person exhibiting the essence of what it means to have a helping heart. The Pittsgrove resident did everything she could to put herself in a position to assist her fellow human beings in a time of need.
“I joined volunteer panels, signed up for trials, and helped spread the most current information," said McGee. “So, when our team took on the Covid projects, I was overjoyed. I felt like I could finally do something to make a difference and help save lives."
“My contributions pale in comparison to the chemists who create the formulas for these life-saving vaccines and medications," she continued, “but it's very fulfilling to know that I'm helping on a global scale."
Dr. Randa, who was also McGee's Microbiology professor, has enjoyed watching the upward progression of one of his prize students.
“It has been amazing to follow Emily's education and career. I constantly use her as an example to my current students – that you can start at community college, transfer to a 4-year program, and make a valuable contribution to society," Dr. Randa revealed. “I am truly impressed with what Emily has been able to accomplish."
McGee, who, interestingly, wasn't a big fan of science in high school, is thankful for the experiences she had on the Cumberland campus and credits the school for the successes she's attained as a research microbiologist.
“I wouldn't be where I am today if I did not start my college career out at CCC," said McGee. “Going to the school gave me confidence and the small class sizes allowed me to truly engage in classes and with the professors.
“I learned so much at the College and I have carried that knowledge with me through my career."
For more information about Rowan College of South Jersey's STEM program, visit RCSJ.edu/STEM.