Meghan Catherwood '25 wears a bright, multi-colored tie-dyed lab coat and blue gloves while smiling and holding a pipette in a lab on campus.

Meghan Catherwood '25, Biology and Spanish

February 27, 2024

Meghan Catherwood '25 has conducted biology research at Bucknell to better understand how environmental changes and stress impact an organism's health. Photo by Emily Paine, Communications

"My goal had always been to attend an academically challenging school with a great diving program. For me, Bucknell had that perfect combination. I felt like this was a place I could thrive."

A day bookended by high diving and firefly catching would be unusual for most. But it's just an average day for Meghan Catherwood '25. Before the sun rose, Catherwood was inside Kinney Natatorium, Bucknell's state-of-the-art aquatics facility, working to perfect her tuck and pike off the springboards. After the sun set 12 hours later, she was exploring a state park near campus, collecting fireflies with classmates.

Catherwood was part of a research team working to expand their understanding of immunology by examining how environmental changes, such as pollution or habitat loss, affect the health of fireflies. "A couple of nights a week, we would go out with nets to collect fireflies and bring them back to the lab to study different factors impacting their survival," Catherwood says. "I enjoyed being able to apply what we were learning in the classroom out in the world."

Catherwood's ultimate goal is to apply the lessons she's learning inside and outside Bucknell's classrooms to a career in healthcare. "I know I want to do something in the health sciences," she says. "I love biology classes, and my experience overcoming athletic-related injuries has given me an appreciation for the field of medicine and rehabilitation. I also hope to be able to use the Spanish skills I'm developing."

Repetitive injuries forced Catherwood to pivot away from competitive gymnastics at age 14, a sport she had dedicated herself to for 11 years. Instead of giving up athletics for good, she decided to apply her strength, power and talent for twisting and flipping to a sport with a more forgiving landing: diving.

Meghan Catherwood twists in mid-air after launching off a high diving board. The Bunknell Bison logo is on the wall behind her.

The strength and mental focus Meghan Catherwood '25 honed as a competitive gymnast have carried over to a successful diving career at Bucknell. Photo by Emily Paine, Communications

By her sophomore year of high school, Catherwood was showing strong potential in her new sport. As a junior, she medaled at invitational meets and finished 10th in the state. That's when schools like Bucknell took notice.

Although Catherwood wasn't able to participate in traditional recruitment visits due to the COVID-19 pandemic, her virtual interaction with diving coach Errol Carter and members of the team made an impactful impression that led her to choose Bucknell.

"Even though I couldn't meet the team in person, they made me feel that Bucknell was a welcoming environment and community," she says. "My goal had always been to attend an academically challenging school with a great diving program. For me, Bucknell had that perfect combination. I felt like this was a place I could thrive."

Catherwood says her athletic and academic lives have benefited from being part of such a tight-knit, hard-working team. "We are very evenly matched in terms of our skills and our work ethic," she says. "It's fun to work with people who have similar mindsets and attitudes."

With her firefly research complete, Catherwood has shifted her focus to a new research project that studies stress and its effects on the aging process. With her research lab, she examines how various stressors affect organisms and how they might accelerate aging.

Catherwood says she is grateful for Bucknell's small class sizes, which allow for individualized attention and more hands-on opportunities. She also says that taking advantage of office hours has been a key part of her academic experience.

"My professors are always willing to meet for office hours, and I try to go as often as possible," she says. "I like that they know our names and a lot about us. Many of my professors will ask me, 'How was the meet this weekend?' They truly care about us and want us to succeed, which is something I think is special."


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