Fast Track to Research Scholars Share Their Research Experiance

The 2015-2016 academic year launched the Fast Track to Research program with the School of Biology at Georgia Tech. This unique program is designed to allow incoming freshman the opportunity work in a lab and conduct research in either the second semester of their freshman year or the summer following their freshman year. Fast Track to Research scholars are awarded a $1500 scholarship. This year, as a result of the generous contributions of our alumni, 15 students were selected as Fast Track to Research Scholars. Here are a few of their stories.

 

KENNETH WILLIAMS
Fast Track Mentor: Brian Hammer

How would you describe your freshman year at Georgia Tech?

For my first year, I decided to take a light course load in order to acclimate myself to campus life and have time to begin research. Overall, I adjusted well to the independence that college provides, but it also helps to live half an hour away so I could go home almost every weekend.

 

How did the Fast Track Scholarship influence your decision to come to Georgia Tech and to major in Biology?

This scholarship was a unique opportunity that allowed me to start research in my first year that no other school that I applied for was able to offer. I was already interested in studying biology, but given the prestige of Georgia Tech as a research institute, this was not an offer that I could turn down.

 

How has your experience in a lab and interactions with a mentor enhanced your understanding of and appreciation for research? 

Personally, I do not think I could have picked a better team to start researching with. They are very personable and demonstrate the social aspect of research where even as an undergrad you are able to understand how the work you are doing ties into the bigger picture. Also, I did not realize the extent of the collaborations that occur between different research teams from meeting with groups in the physics department to working with teams at other universities and institutes across the nation.

 

As of right now, what do you think you might do when you graduate?

The current plan is to apply to medical school in order to pursue a career in Interventional Cardiology. My new-found skills of sterile technique and precise hand control from the wet lab work that I am doing strongly influenced my decision to move from the diagnostic realm of studying cardiovascular disease to the more hands-on approach of actually performing procedures through interventional medicine. Although this path will take approximately 14 additional years of school, I feel as though the end goal of potentially saving the life of someone's parent or grandparent is enough motivation drive the passion I have to join the medical field.  

 

What would you tell a prospective student about biology at Georgia Tech and the Fast Track Scholarship?

The Fast Track Scholarship is one of, if not the best, means for undergraduates to seamlessly enter the research community. I was able find a team that I enjoy and will most likely stay with while others usually do not start thinking about research until their second or third year. With the stipend provided by the Fast Track Scholarship, I will hopefully be able to attend a mission trip hosted by AMSA next year which probably would not have been possible had I not been a part of this program. In regards to biology, the field itself is made up of various topics including cell and molecular, genetics, ecology, and evolution to name a few. All of these areas however converge especially in the field of research where you will have students focused on these different aspects to ensure that the team overall has a greater understanding of the topic at hand. If you are looking for a very well-rounded approach to understand the multifaceted world of biology, this degree at Georgia Tech exposes you to each of these areas in a way that allows you to truly find where your interests lie and then tailor your degree to delve deeper into the topics you enjoy the most within the complex world of biology.

 

SIMONE JARVIS
Fast Track Mentor: Mark Hay

How would you describe your freshman year at Georgia Tech?

If I had to summarize my freshman year in one word it would probably be exhilarating. Everything is so novel! The independence was something I was very much looking forward to. Classes and life at Tech is very rigorous, but that makes it all the more worth it when you look at how much you’ve accomplished.

 

How did the Fast Track Scholarship influence your decision to come to Georgia Tech and to major in Biology?

Georgia Tech was already very high on my list of universities that I want to attend and the Fast Track Scholarship definitely contributed to the tipping point for my decision. A lot of universities offer undergraduate research, but Tech was the only one that was going to allow me to get set up in a lab during my first year. 

 

How has your experience in a lab and interactions with a mentor enhanced your understanding of and appreciation for research? 

I now have a much better understanding of the lab dynamic and the weight of the work that I’m doing. A lot of these projects take time, which means a lot of patience and precision, and that’s not something I had as much of a grasp on before Fast Track.

 

As of right now, what do you think you might do when you graduate?

Right now I’m juggling a few different options - getting my masters/PhD is definitely the forerunner. I’m also considering PA school. 

 

What would you tell a prospective student about biology at Georgia Tech and the Fast Track Scholarship?

I would tell prospective students that the biology program is a rigorous one, but the professors and advisors are here to help you succeed. There are a myriad of different opportunities for all biology students, the Fast Track Scholarship gets you plugged into the areas of your interests early. 

 

                                                                                                                                                                         Taylor with lab mates Megan Wittling & Zoe Hartman

TAYLOR GARMON
Fast Track Mentor: Shuyi Nie

How would you describe your freshman year at Georgia Tech?

My freshman year at Tech has definitely been the beginning of a major new chapter in my life. Of course, adjusting to life away from home and old friends certainly had its difficulties at first, but in the end I think it gave me the opportunity I needed to mature and become more independent. Although my introductory classes were fairly diverse in terms of the majors that people were pursuing, I still had the chance to meet many students with similar passions for Biology like myself. As I grew to better know these people, their own struggles in adapting to college life, and their own motivations driving their career goals, I felt the same comfort that I had once held in high school; even though Biology is one of the smaller majors at Georgia Tech, I certainly didn’t feel lonely. Being fortunate enough to begin undergraduate research as a freshman, those connections with people striving towards the same goals as me have only been deepened. Moving forward, I hope to take advantage of the other opportunities that Tech offers to Biology majors and continue putting as much effort as I can into my research.

 

How did the Fast Track Scholarship influence your decision to come to Georgia Tech and to major in Biology?

I knew that I wanted my future career to be centered around Biology ever since my first year of high school, so my major seemed like a natural decision for me. (I actually learned I had received the Fast Track scholarship my first week of school, so I can’t say it influenced my decision to come).

 

How has your experience in a lab and interactions with a mentor enhanced your understanding of and appreciation for research?

I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunity to begin undergraduate research so early in my college career. I am currently a part of the lab under Dr. Shuyi Nie, which studies genes influential in the migration and subsequent differentiation of neural crest cells within Xenopus laevis and chick embryos. And while this might seem like an overwhelming topic to study, with some of my own personal research and with the knowledge of others in my lab, I quickly got my foothold and learned the protocols and methods associated with my lab, such as in-situ hybridizations and microinjections, but also a good idea for the reasoning behind each step. One of the most profound experiences that I had in my first few weeks of lab was when, after chipping away the topmost shell of a chicken egg, I looked inside to see a small embryo on top of the yolk with a tiny beating heart. Working in the lab and pursuing my own study of a gene influential in the differentiation of neural crest cells, it’s extremely rewarding when the sometimes tedious week-long protocols end in beautiful pictures of embryos with blue pigment in the area of your gene’s expression. Because I have been given the opportunity to begin my research in this lab as a freshman, I am hopeful that all of my remaining years at Tech will be productive and allow me to contribute well to my research project.

 

As of right now, what do you think you might do when you graduate?

In terms of my future plans, my opinion is kind of split. I think pursuing something in the medical field, such as a doctor or a nurse, is very meaningful and is the most direct way to really help others. But, I feel that being a doctor is very procedural, as you are putting into use already-discovered knowledge. Carrying out biological research after earning a PhD, while not making such a direct impact on others, would allow me to strive towards discovering and exploring unknown areas of human health. Thus, at the moment I am leaning more towards wanting to pursue a PhD, but I also definitely want to keep my options open; I would love and be absolutely grateful to have either of these occupations.

 

What would you tell a prospective student about biology at Georgia Tech and the Fast Track Scholarship?

To prospective biology students at Tech, I would want to ensure them that, although Biology is a small major here, the School of Biology certainly provides their students with plenty of opportunities and resources. To prospective Fast Track Scholars, I would recommend that, even before they take their official semester for the scholarship, they reach out to their professor and possibly observe in the lab the semester prior so that they are acquainted with the procedures and etiquette of their lab, and are prepared to hit the ground running when their semester begins. 

 

The unique opportunity of the Fast Track Scholarship is giving the biology majors at Georgia Tech a head start on their career options that is not available at most colleges. Both our mentors and our scholars have provided positive feedback about this program. We are grateful to the alumni who have contributed toward the success of these students and this program. As the Spring semester and the first year of the program comes to a close we look forward to the Fall and a new group of Fast Track Scholars.

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