Campus mourns death of graduate student

Jason Henry and Jason Henry

Christa Bowen, 35, a doctorate graduate student, died on March 15 after her car was struck on the passenger side as she exited Kroger on North Main Street.

Bowen was a mother of two, a teaching assistant and a researcher.

Lee Meserve, a distinguished teaching professor in the biology department, met Bowen when he served as her undergraduate adviser while she was a pre-med student.

“She was a sweetheart,” Meserve said. “Everybody loved her.”

Originally, Bowen’s goal was to go to medical school and become a doctor. She applied to medical school, but her application was denied.

“They were not impressed enough with her, as an applicant, to admit her to medical school,” Meserve said. “But that was stupid on their part. She would have been a great doctor.”

Bowen decided she would do research rather than medicine.

After getting her bachelor’s degree, Bowen stayed at the University to complete her master’s degree in Meserve’s lab. Along the way, she married her husband, Andy, and had twin sons, Austin and Tyler, Meserve said.

As a researcher, Bowen was studying whether or not progesterone, a steroid hormone, could combat developmental delays caused by polychlorinated bipheny, an environmental contaminant.

Meserve said he believes Bowen was drawn to the research because she had worked in a fertility clinic before coming back to work on obtaining her doctorate.

He said she was very helpful to her students in the anatomy and physiology lab. She encouraged them to work in the research lab, and three of the undergraduates currently working in Meserve’s lab were convinced to do so by Bowen.

Those undergraduates, plus a few other graduate students, will be finishing Bowen’s research, Meserve said.

Victoria Eck, one of the graduate students who will be continuing Bowen’s research, said she met Bowen when they taught an anatomy course together.

Eck said her favorite thing about Bowen was how she was always happy.

“She would just walk in to a room and brighten it up,” Eck said.

Eck said helping people was something that came naturally to Bowen.

“She always seemed to know the right answer,” Eck said. “She was kind of like our little counselor; we’d go to her when we had problems.”

One example of Bowen’s selflessness is when she and Eck went to get H1N1 shots, Eck said.

“I was at the very end of the line, but because I have asthma, she was concerned about my health,” She said. “So she took her mother’s ticket, for the H1N1 shot, ran to the end of the line and gave me her ticket. Then pulled me all the way to the front of the line so that I could get my shot, to make sure I was safe because I was working in a doctor’s office.”

Eck said Bowen not only taught the students, but she also taught Eck how to teach.

“She was so knowledgeable about any topic,” Eck said. “You could ask her any question and she would have an answer for you.”

As a teacher, Bowen would always stay after class to talk to students and answer questions.

“She was a great teacher,” Eck said. “She was very patient and willing to go out of her way for anyone.”

Junior Katelyn Ammons, who met Bowen when she was her teaching assistant in anatomy, said Bowen encouraged her to get in to research.

“She taught me so much about research,” she said. “I wouldn’t be doing it without her help and I definitely would not love it as much as I do now if it weren’t for Christa.”

Ammons said she could tell Bowen truly wanted her to succeed. Bowen would often call, even during summer break, just to see how Ammons was doing.

She was willing to help, whether it be suggesting classes, or helping with homework, Ammons said.

“She was always just a ray of sunshine. She always had a smile on her face. She was just a joy to talk to,” Ammons said. “I thought I would know her for the rest of my life. She was my mentor, but she was absolutely my friend.”