Mary-Peyton Knapp

AU professors helped pre-med student nurture a passion for biology, chemistry and oncology

#myJourney--For most of Mary-Peyton Knapp’s life, science has been an interest. But it was her family, and her Anderson University family, that turned her love of science into a passion and career path.

Knapp grew up in Greenville and graduated in May 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry. A recipient of AU’s Presidential Scholarship, she is attending the University of South Carolina School of Medicine in Greenville. Her goal, she said, is to become a doctor and go into oncology.

When Knapp was in fifth grade, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Being around doctors made her think maybe that was the field for her.

“When my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, that was my first exposure to the medical field,” she said. “I helped her through her treatment and got to meet some wonderful doctors and nurses. It made me more interested in biology and chemistry.”

In high school, however, a biology teacher helped her discover her passion for biology and chemistry, and encouraged her to pursue it. Because of that, when it came to college, she knew she wanted to study both biology and chemistry. Out of all the schools across the state though, only one, Anderson University, allowed her to major in biochemistry.

Knapp said that she knew immediately that she wanted to go to AU.

“I loved the atmosphere on campus the second I walked onto the school grounds,” she said. “It felt like a big family to me almost immediately, and it has stayed true to that throughout my time here, right up until my last class.“

It was that AU family that helped her find the confidence to go on to medical school.

One mentor, Professor of Biology Dr. Diana Ivankovic, helped her to see her passion was coming full-circle. Dr. Ivankovic, director of the university’s Center for Cancer Research, not only motivated her and pushed her to be better, Knapp said, but she also helped her to see that she could do something about the cancer her mother had been diagnosed with so many years before.

“Dr. Ivankovic is so supportive and always so caring. She has been highly motivating to me,” Knapp said. “She’s always asking about my mom. And she’s always there to help me move forward. She would (light) things up for me and push me toward making my career choices.”

Through the Center, Knapp was able to research the effects of fruit and plant extracts on cancer cells and later was able to travel and present her research to others.

“Mary-Peyton has completed her research on the effects of indigo and red clover on breast cancer cell line MCF-7, as well as on healthy breast cells,” Dr. Ivankovic said. “She had great results, and we are in the process of publishing her work. She has presented her findings at several conferences. (Mary-Peyton) and I have also written a grant on Zika virus in South Carolina, and she was awarded the grant.”

Dr. Ivankovic said she thinks Knapp will make a wonderful doctor someday.

“Mary-Peyton is an excellent student who has performed extremely well academically, always with a smile on her face,” Dr. Ivankovic said. “Mary-Peyton has participated in my study abroad class in Croatia/Italy and Slovenia. She visited hospital, medical schools, hospices and orphanages overseas. I am proud that Mary-Peyton is so passionate about oncology, and I am sure that she will be an excellent specialist one day, when she completes medical school and residency.”

But above all, AU helped her to realize how important her faith was to her success both now, and in the future, Knapp said. She said she knows that her faith will help her through the stress of medical school and will help her to be a better doctor.

“I know it’s not the answer they want you to give: but I want to be a doctor because I love people, and I love helping people. And I have always loved science,” she said. “I think I’m better at loving people now because of my faith, and I know it will help me to help them.”