The most important thing I learned at Wooster is never to compromise my interests and passions. Wooster also taught me that people will always matter more than projects, places, and rankings. A student anywhere can, with enough drive and motivation, learn the information he or she needs to be successful. Wooster, however, made it so much easier. My professors challenged me to always perform my best without creasing a competitive or stressful environment between me and other students. Collaboration was expected because professors recognize the value of learning from your peers, not just the value of listening to their lectures. Small classes let professors be flexible when working with students with a variety of different learning styles, which in turn made learning that much easier. During my independent study project, I was never lulled into a sense of complacency; successes were followed by more questions, and failures were followed by an analysis of other ways to look at the problem. As an entering first-year, I was torn between majoring in Physics and majoring in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. When a scheduling conflict pitted Organic Chemistry II against second semester Physics, I assumed that was the point when I would have to choose. However, after talking with the Physics department chair Dr. Lindner, and the professor of the physics course, Dr. McAlpine, they arranged for me to have a 1-on-1 tutorial with him throughout the entire semester. From then on, I was able to make both majors work. Because I was able to pursue majors in both Physics and BMB, I developed a keen interest in the field of biophysics, the subject I now plan on studying in graduate school. Finally, Wooster connections have had a direct impact on my path through research. When Wooster alumni Dr. Jason Rosch came to give a seminar about his research, I was able to eat lunch with him after his presentation. Through him, I learned about a program at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. I applied to work in his lab, and ended up spending 11 weeks working in the lab of a well-known infectious disease researcher. Dr. Rosch, who also followed up his Wooster education by earning a PhD at Wash U, ended up being a huge resource when it came to choosing the next step.
Currently, I am enrolled in Washington University School of Medicine’s Medical Scientist Training Program, an 8 year program earning both PhD and MD degrees. The program, funded by the NIH, provides full tuition remission for those wishing to pursue a career in academic research medicine. During the PhD phase I plan to pursue a PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, with a project focusing on structure and function of proteins that play important roles in infection and disease. Upon graduation from the program, I tentatively plan to enter a residency in immunology. However, my time at Wooster taught me to keep an open mind and go where my passions take me, so those plans are always subject to change. Long-term, I hope to run my own lab at an academic medical center while maintaining interactions with patients on a part-time basis.
Don’t let Wooster’s small size fool you; there are Scots everywhere. For me, being part of that network meant more than a slightly favorable look at a resume; it allowed me to discover new opportunities and consider options I didn’t even know existed. Usually, when I tell professors in medical and graduate school where I did my undergraduate work, I’m prepared to say “I went to Wooster. It’s a small liberal arts school about an hour south of Cleveland…”. It never fails to surprise me how many people within the research community, more so than the general population, cut me off by saying “oh, we know Wooster!” Just as often, those same people (people who went to elite, big-name schools and had fantastically successful careers) cite not going the liberal arts route as one of their only regrets, and often list one or two liberal arts schools their children attended.
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