University of Georgia Cancer Center

Amazing Student - Missia Kohler

Missia  Kohler

Advances in medicine are built on a foundation of basic research, and Missia Kohler wants to contribute to both fields. After completing her studies at UGA, she plans to enroll in an M.D. /Ph.D. program so she can do basic research that relates to the medical field. She’s already working on a project that aims to use knowledge gained from cellular biology research to develop a new early diagnostic test for cancer. The aspiring physician stays busy with her class work, research and extracurricular activities, but still finds time to kick back with friends and watch, what else, Grey’s Anatomy.


May 2009


B.S. in biochemistry and molecular biology

University highlights, achievements and awards:

I am fortunate to be a recipient of the Charter Scholarship here at UGA, which recognizes incoming first-year students for outstanding academic achievement. I am currently a member of pre-medical honor society Alpha Epsilon Delta and professional agriculture sorority Sigma Alpha Lambda. Also, I have made the Dean’s List. In the summer of 2007, I was selected as one of ten students to participate in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Summer in Biomedical Sciences Program. Through this program, I performed research in the department of physiology and biophysics and competed at a poster presentation. This was a wonderful experience for me that has helped me more clearly determine my career path.

Current employment:

Although my research is a class and not actually "employment," I am currently doing research in Michael Pierce’s lab at the Complex Carbohydrate Research Center. My project is to help develop a screening test for cancer that works by detecting changes in the sugars that are attached to proteins.

High School:

Spain Park High School


Birmingham, AL

Family ties:

My father obtained a B.S. from the University of Georgia in chemistry and taught high school chemistry for several years. He later obtained a doctoral degree from the Florida State University in Educational Measurement and Statistics. His first postsecondary teaching job after graduate school was at UGA.

I chose to attend UGA because...

…I always wanted to go out of state for college, and UGA was the perfect compromise. It was just far enough away from home without being so far that I couldn’t get back home without too much trouble or having to buy a plane ticket. Also, I liked the idea of going where my father went to college and carrying on the UGA family tradition.

My favorite things to do on campus are... the Red and Black newspaper before my class starts and walk around campus listening to my iPod. I have this habit of getting everywhere too early (especially my classes), so to pass the time I like to read the Red and Black and catch up on university events. I try to avoid being rushed walking around campus so I can spend quality time with my iPod. Having some music makes the walk up Ag Hill or the Chemistry Building stairs much easier.

When I have free time, I like...

…to sleep and watch television with my friends. When I get a little bit of free time, it's nice to be able to take a nap, even if it's just for a few minutes. My friends and I have developed a Thursday night routine where we watch The Office and Grey’s Anatomy together, and that is one of the most enjoyable parts of the week for me. I also like spending time at the UGA Episcopal Center because it has become like a second home to me. If it weren't for Father Dann Brown and the rest of the wonderful people there, sometimes I don’t know what I would do. They are able to keep me sane in the midst of all the chaos that is part of being a science major. I serve on the Student Vestry there, and being able to participate in this activity has added a new dimension to my life at UGA.

The craziest thing I've done is...

…walk from the World Trade Center site to Times Square in high-heel boots. It's about five miles. Although it’s definitely not anything daring or exciting, I would certainly call it crazy because I don’t know why I would do anything that dumb.

My favorite place to study is...

… apartment because I have this big, comfy chair where I just sit back and do all my reading. It's generally very quiet at my apartment; I also like the fact that I can spread all my papers on my floor, which isn’t something that I wouldn’t want to do at the SLC.

My favorite professor is...

…Richard Hubbard. I know most people wouldn’t say their organic chemistry professor would be their favorite, but he made the subject something to love. He was able to take a relatively difficult subject and put in terms that were very easy to understand, and I still can remember most everything he taught me. He went out of his way to help his students by holding extra study sessions before tests, and he was just a very approachable guy. I was honestly sad when my semester with him was over.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with...

…my paternal grandmother. I never had the chance to meet any of my grandparents because they all died before I was born, so it would be nice to meet one of them. From what I’ve been told, my dad’s mother was someone to be admired. She had a dry wit about her, which is something that I love in my dad. Also, from what I can discern, she must have been extremely smart. She seemed ahead of her time. She was a working woman well before women really began venturing into the workplace. So I would like to meet her and hear all her stories, words of wisdom and advice she would have to offer me.

If I knew I could not fail, I would...

…go to Congress and demand much more money for basic science research. There just doesn’t seem to be enough money going around for funding, and there are many labs that are struggling despite the fact that the research that’s being done is important. I know that I want to be a researcher, and I would like the climate to more hospitable for basic science research.

After graduation, I plan to...

…get my M.D. and Ph.D. so that I can do basic science research that relates to the medical field. Also, I hope to be part of academic medicine and teach at a medical school. Because both of my parents are professors, I have always wanted to teach. Ultimately, I would like to be a tenured faculty member at a major university researching something that I love.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be...

…well, I don’t know yet. I still have a few semesters to go, and it is still too early for me to pick my one defining moment at UGA, although thus far several have certainly happened. I will wait, however, to choose the "one" experience I will always remember.