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Class of 2022: Zach Drechsler

Zach Drechsler will have memories of McDaniel that last a lifetime, especially since he honed his photography skills in Professor Walter Calahan’s digital photography class. Snapshots of his study abroad in the Bahamas with Professor Randy Morrison and his time as a student ambassador and peer mentor remain unforgettable highlights. A Biology major, Zach zoomed in close for a look at genetics for his capstone project, “Influence of Telomeres on Organismal Aging.”

Zach Drechsler posing in a lab coat with hands on hips.

Zach Drechsler is a Biology major from Hanover, Pennsylvania.

When I took my first step on the Hill, I was: Looking forward to getting more involved after transferring from a community college. It was like a fresh start.

The me who will ring the Old Main bell on Commencement Day is: Glad I decided to stay close to home and get more involved on campus. I’m excited to see what I will do with the knowledge I obtained from the numerous biology courses I’ve taken.

Real world experiences: I was able to travel to the Bahamas through Dr. Randy Morrison’s study abroad course. It was a place I’ve always wanted to go to, and it was as beautiful as I had imagined. I didn’t initially know many students on the trip, but it was a chance to meet some new friends. Being able to swim with sharks, barracuda, grouper, stingray, and lionfish while taking pictures was a first for me. I will never forget the beautiful coral reefs I saw or the many other places we explored. 

My aha moment: I have some skills in photography and was able to develop them a bit more by taking a digital photography class taught by Professor Walter Calahan. This helped turn a hobby into a job with a wedding and portrait photographer. I’ve become very passionate about capturing memories for people that will last a lifetime.

Footprints I’m leaving on the Hill: I am hoping some of the students I have been able to influence through being a peer mentor end up helping others in a similar way.

Faculty or staff member who most influenced who I have become: I’ve met a lot of helpful faculty and staff members, but I’d have to say Erin Benevento has influenced me the most. She reached out to me during my junior year and persuaded me to become a peer mentor. The peer mentor program helped me come out of my shell a bit and become more comfortable with public speaking. She is always pleasant to talk to and genuinely seems to enjoy her job. It has reminded me I need to find a job I can be equally enthusiastic about.

Best class ever: You would think a Biology major would pick a science-related class as their favorite, but the best class I took at McDaniel was easily A History of Satan taught by Professor Brad Stoddard. I didn’t expect to like the class so much, but I enjoyed going to the lectures or watching the recorded ones (since everything was online at the time). It was interesting to see how different people across several religions perceive the image of Satan. I had no complaints about the teaching style since Professor Stoddard was always enthusiastic about what he taught and did not make the classwork overwhelming.

Took me totally by surprise: It truly is a small college, so you will often see familiar faces across campus and in your classes.

My favorite spot on campus: Despite not living on campus, I found that the second floor lobby in Eaton Hall was very relaxing to sit and complete classwork.

Most mind-boggling idea I learned at McDaniel: The concept of CRISPR technology and the possibilities it has for humans in the future. It has the potential to cure diseases like sickle cell anemia. I didn’t know about any of this before taking Cell Biology.

My capstone title: “Influence of Telomeres on Organismal Aging.”

What it’s about in plain talk: I reviewed several different studies on mice and birds to see how the length of a telomere can correlate to aging in organisms. Telomeres are the repeats found at the end of chromosomes that protect the genetic material and signal that the end of the chromosome is there instead of it being a double-stranded DNA break in need of repair. Telomeres shorten during DNA replication; however, the enzyme telomerase can replenish these telomere repeats. Telomerase is less active with age, resulting in telomere shortening with age. Mice offspring of young males were shown to have longer telomere lengths than the offspring of old males. Mice with hyper-long telomeres lived longer and had reduced cancer risk. Longer telomeres were associated with increased viral infection resistance in mice. Juvenile jackdaw birds with longer telomeres had a greater chance of survival.

Tell us a little about your activities, including sports, during your years at McDaniel: I have been a student ambassador throughout most of my time at McDaniel and a peer mentor my senior year. I help with the yearbook a bit and it has been fun to see it all come together.

What’s next: I plan to take a year to get an internship in public health and decide if I would like to pursue my master’s degree. I’ve been thinking about going into epidemiology given the relevancy of it over the last few years. During my year away from schooling, I would like to travel a bit and experience more before continuing my education.

If you received financial aid, what did that mean for you and your family? I did receive financial aid, and it tremendously helped me make going to McDaniel affordable. It reduced a lot of stress for me and my parents.

How will you stay connected to McDaniel? I’ll come to alumni events, if possible, since I will be living near campus for the next few years.

About Zach

Name: Zach Drechsler

Major: Biology

Class of 2022

"I’m excited to see what I will do with the knowledge I obtained from the numerous biology courses I’ve taken."