Photo by John Eisle/CSU Photography
Outstanding Grad: Luke Davis
College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences
story by Anne Manning
published May 8, 2023
Personal tragedy brought Luke Davis to Colorado State University. While life dealt him a difficult hand, he persevered and created a community here, learning to process grief and leaning on friends and mentors to help see him through.
He will graduate in May with a degree from the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology, and he plans to enter the workforce after graduation.
In 2018, when Davis was finishing high school in St. Charles, Missouri, family violence upended his life and that of his five siblings. His mother was convicted in the homicide of his father, and Davis and four of his siblings, including his twin brother, were forced to start a new life in a new place – Colorado Springs – under the care of his maternal grandparents.
Davis’ grandparents – whom he credits as “amazing people” – were the ones who introduced him to CSU, as they had several family members who had attended. “I just hoped for the best and applied,” Davis said.
Always a science-minded student, Davis had originally been interested in pursuing veterinary medicine. But halfway through his first year at CSU, he decided to switch gears and open himself up to other fields, choosing microbiology as a versatile base. Taking MIP 150, Introduction to Research Methods, solidified his desire to complete the challenging major and gain research experience.
“It was not the type of class where they hold your hand,” Davis said. “They push you to see if this is what you really want to do.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted life on campus and beyond, Davis became a research assistant in the lab of Professor Mark Zabel, where he assisted the team doing the campuswide saliva screening that was critical to keeping the university open and functioning. Davis later joined the lab of Professor Carol Wilusz, who, along with Associate Professor Susan DeLong in engineering, led the campus wastewater surveillance testing program for COVID-19. Learning about the analysis side of wastewater testing, Davis also got to go out in the field with senior researchers, participating in sample collection and learning the process from start to finish. “That was really cool, and a good experience,” he said.
“Whatever time you’re willing to devote to things you’re a part of, I would say definitely helps you in the long run.”
— Luke Davis
For his work on both those teams, Davis was a runner-up for the 2022 CSU Student Employee of the Year Award. According to his citation, Davis’ contributions helped lead to the Wilusz lab receiving the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences’ Living Our Values Award in 2021 and recognition as a CSU COVID Hero.
“Luke is a wonderful person and a much-valued team member,” Wilusz said. “He has suffered many hardships, but always shows up ready to work with a smile on his face.”
Another one of his department mentors, Professor Erica Suchman, added: “Luke’s story is one of the most difficult of any student I have ever worked with, but despite that he didn’t give up, he showed up, and he worked hard, all while maintaining a positive outlook and a smile on his face. Luke has been personally quite inspirational to me, with his happiness and great attitude despite such a hard setback. He is an example of how to remember all that life has to offer.”
Davis isn’t entirely sure what he wants to do for a career, but he’s drawn to public health, especially since half his college life took place during a pandemic. “Public health is really intriguing me right now, and I enjoy what I’m doing,” he said.
Davis is grateful for the opportunities he’s had at CSU, and most importantly, for the friends he’s made through his major and elsewhere. “Just being on campus has been invaluable for me,” he said. He also credited his faculty and student success mentors in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology. “They are so supportive, and they actually want you to succeed,” he said.
Davis was also involved in the CSU Swim and Dive Club, taking on leadership roles during the latter half of his time here.
His best advice to other students is to take advantage of opportunities, and to simply do the best you can. “Whatever time you’re willing to devote to things you’re a part of, I would say definitely helps you in the long run.”
The Class of 2023 represents the very best of Colorado State University, showing courage in the face of adversity in the pursuit of their degrees. Read more stories of some of the outstanding students who are graduating this fall. read more