“My academic career had far more downs than ups, but the faculty and staff at Nash never gave up on me.” Nathaniel Akers, May 2014 Nash Community College graduate recalls his time at Nash saying he made poor decisions early in his academic career, but there was no shortage of faculty members at Nash to put him back on track. As a student, his study habits were not refined at first. But, he said Instructor David Beamer’s Biology 111 class caught his attention. Before he knew it, he had grown to love Biology.
Today Akers, who grew up in Rocky Mount, has quite the academic vita as he is in his first semester at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. He attributes his success to his time at Nash Community College. “Even my friends on the maintenance crew were always eager to hear how I was doing, and I looked forward to seeing their smiling faces each day. I was pushed and prodded towards a better path from day one,” he said.
At Nash, he was active in the Math and Science Club. He and Instructor David Beamer started the Biodiversity Center in one of the college’s Biology Labs, growing plants that are used by college faculty in labs and exams and supplying and maintaining an extensive collection of living creatures used for visual aids by students. “We bred various species successfully in the lab, and it is my understanding that the corn snake recently laid eggs,” Akers said. The Biodiversity Center has become a routine stop during campus tours, and “Ted,” the Tiger Salamander, is quite the star.
Last spring, Akers took creatures from the lab to the Rocky Mount Children’s Museum during a community education outreach effort. He also made a visit to the Festival for the Eno River in partnership with the NC Herpetological Society. “I developed many skills under Mr. Beamer, and many people from other universities and organizations are always interested to hear about the living collection at Nash Community College. It is truly a special place,” Akers said.
Akers volunteered with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission through the NCC Math and Science Club as well. He traveled the surrounding counties helping survey populations of the Neuse River Waterdog, contributing to the conservation of a species of concern in North Carolina. Just recently, he aced several of his first exams at UNCW. He has also scored As on scientific papers in his Marine Biology Lab, a class that has him conducting an experiment to investigate zonation in salt marshes.
“While at NCC, I traveled and developed lab skills that make me a competitive candidate for internships and lab positions at UNCW – opportunities that are hard to come by for undergraduates at four-year universities. Many professors are impressed that I was able to gain so many skills and experiences early in my studies.”
Akers continues to make NCC proud, not only through his academic coursework and research, but through his passion to share his education and experiences with others. On Saturday, December 6 at 11:00 a.m., he will present a science colloquy for middle school and high school students at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences titled “The Search for Northern Two-Lined Salamanders in North Carolina.” Admission is free and open to the public.
Only three species of two-lined salamanders are currently on record to occur in the state. Akers will present data from his research at NCC examining the occurrence of a species of two-lined salamander not yet recorded in North Carolina. He will share with students how Nash Community College helped him pursue a STEM career.
Nathaniel Akers received the John Bowley Derieux Research Award at the North Carolina Academy of Science hosted by the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences earlier this year. He served as a Biology tutor through the NCC Peer Assisted Learning Program. While enrolled at Nash, he also presented his first scientific talk in Crossnore, NC at the North Carolina Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation meeting. He was a member of NCC’s Phi Theta Kappa and Gamma Beta Phi Honor Societies and graduated with distinction.
“Nash is not ‘just a community college;’ it is a one in a million kind of institution. Nash helped me to grow as a student, and provided opportunities for me that I could never have imagined possible. Doors are opening for me every day due to the experiences I developed at Nash Community College,” Nathaniel Akers said.