EL DORADO, Ark. (KTVE/KARD) — Brooke McCoy was just 17-years-old when her mother lost her battle to breast cancer. Her mother’s loss inspired her to dive deeper into her love for science and cancer research.

McCoy said, “Once my mom passed away, I was like, I can really make a difference. It’s fun to love something and it’s fun to see a way that you can make an impact.”

Brooke McCoy pictured with her mother

Last summer, Brooke participated in a research project at Vanderbilt University. The program is called “Engineering Approach to Cancer Vaccine Design” where she got insight on research that goes into studying cancer and other diseases.

The program gave her clarity for the career she wants to pursue.

“Difficult circumstances are going to bring out the beautiful parts of us and even build these beautiful aspects of us that we never knew we had,” said McCoy.

Although she went through tough times, she said that is what makes her stronger today.

Brooke McCoy will attend Vanderbilt University in the fall. She plans to major in Molecular Biology and minor in Environmental Science. After achieving her goal to receive a Bachelor’s and Doctorate degree, she will begin her career in Molecular & Cellular Research and specialize in cancer vaccine research.