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On the Nanoscience Program . . .

What are you majoring in?

I am currently pursuing three degrees: Biochemistry, nanoscience, and microbiology. Biology and Chemistry minors are tacked on as well, as they are completed in between all three majors.

What, specifically, drew you to enrolling in Nano?

Beyond the enthralling and challenging curriculum, what drew me most to the Nanoscience program at Virginia Tech is the extremely knowledgeable and passionate staff. From professors and instructors, to the advising and counseling staff, each staff member is prepared to work diligently to help me succeed.

What about the program exceeded your expectations?

The level of commitment and correspondence the staff members provide the students of the Nanoscience program is unparalleled, and unmatched by any department I have encountered at Virginia Tech.

What surprised you?

The depth and relevance of the nanoscience curriculum is astounding. I did not expect the first-year introduction to nanoscience classes to be as rich with information as they were. I took these classes my sophomore year, and was surprised at how much I still had to learn about what it meant to be a nanoscientist.

Describe an experience you had in the program that stands out. 

Nanoscience often is synonymous with an interdisciplinary curriculum, and this is a very true comparison. Along with my two other majors, I have made a name for myself among my teachers as a student who is capable of bringing together data from different sources and synthesizing information. The need to be quick-thinking and well-rounded is necessary as a nanoscientist, and the Nanoscience program at Virginia Tech prepares its students to be just that by exposing them to material and problems that challenge them. This is what stands out to me the most, as I feel between all three of my majors, nanoscience has prepared me best for real-world interactions and problems.

Students are used to sitting in the classroom with the same faces every year of the undergraduate career because they share classes with their same fellow students continuously. I have become familiar and friends with my BCHM and MICB colleagues, but what stands out the most to me is the intimacy found in the Nanoscience program. The class sizes are small, and there is a lot of personal attention given from both my teachers and my peers. For this reason I have grown to know my nano classmates very well, and to this day they are some of my closest friends!

How does Nanoscience differ from traditional science classes?

The interdisciplinary viewpoint is what really separates nanoscience from other science classes I have taken. I have experienced biochemistry and microbiology classes that for the most part stick only closely to their respective backgrounds. But in nanoscience, I recall an instance in the Nanomedicine class where I was presented with a problem, and I had to apply knowledge from the realms of biology, physics, chemistry, and nanoscience to formulate a strong answer.

Speaking to the impact of Nanoscience on work and life . . .

Can you describe your role in the Corps of Cadets? In what ways has nanoscience impacted your involvement in the Corps?

I am currently staffed as a member of the Corps of Cadets honor court, as well as their Inspection General staff. I spend a lot of my timing working with other cadets to improve their cadet and student experience by helping them maintain the necessary standards required for life in the on-campus barracks. I am also a tutor for the Corps. The NANO program is relatively small, so I am the only cadet within the Corps that tutors and aids cadets who are in the nanoscience classes.

Have you interned anywhere? If so, where did you work?

Pulling from such a wide array of classes has allowed me to become knowledgeable in a wider breadth of elementary science classes such as biology, chemistry, physics, and nanoscience. Because I have been trained by the Nanoscience program to be a well-rounded and adaptable scientist, I have translated these skills to real-world experiences, and was given an opportunity to intern with Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) as a data analyst. Generally, only a student studying information technology or data analytics is given this opportunity, but I was told that my ability to work with others in a scientific and professional environment won me the spot.

Was there a skill you learned in the Integrated Sciecnce Curriculum that you found particularly useful to the work you did in your internship?

My ability to coalesce between my colleagues regardless of their background, education, and specialization was the biggest factor for my success in my internship. The necessity of working in an interdisciplinary environment, and the exposure to different fields of science prepared me for the success I found.

Have you participated in undergraduate research? ? How did your Nanoscience education inform how you approached the project?

I have been participating in undergraduate research for the Biochemistry department since my freshman year under the direction of Dr. David Bevan and Dr. Anne Brown. My research utilizes the on-campus supercomputer clusters to perform advanced, high output computing to simulate biological molecules and the interaction they have with drugs. For three years I have trained myself to understand the software programs I have worked with for computation. Many of the software applications rely heavily on the principles of quantum mechanics, and fortunately the Nanoscience program goes in depth in regards to quantum physics and analysis, which provides me background and insight about my research.

Can you speak to your experience in Nanoscience as it has shaped the way in which you approach problem solving?

No professor or course has challenged more than Dr. Carla Finkielstein's Nanomedicine class. It was a class unlike any other I have ever taken in my life, and likely will ever take again. This high-level course was one of the first times I have ever had to pull information, experience, and knowledge from various other disciplines in order to do well in the class. With this in mind, I want to begin applying the same fervor and problem solving methods I employed in the class in real life scenarios as well.

How have you integrated your interests and hobbies into your coursework?

Ever since I began my Nanoscience curriculum, everything I read, learn, and hear about has a “nano” flavor to it.

What are the benefits of majoring in Nanoscience, Biochemistry, and Microbiology? 

Microbiology and Biochemistry play well off each other, because they allow for a more complex understanding of life at a cellular level. The Nanoscience degree is where things get interesting. Microbiologists and biochemists are restricted to certain physical laws of nature that don’t always apply to nanoscience. The nanoscale world brings on a whole new level and functionality and tools not found regularly found in biochemistry or microbiology. For instance, a biochemist or microbiologist operating solely within their respective discipline are familiar or versed in the myriad of different drug delivery vehicles, or nanoparticle treatments. The addition of Nanoscience has opened up different avenues of thought and problem solving skills I didn’t previously have.

What career path do you hope to follow?

I intend on pursuing a graduate curriculum centered around genetics and genetic engineering. If granted the privilege to pursue it, I am also interested seeking post-graduate education as well, in a more specific field of therapeutic genetics. After I have completed my graduate schooling, I hope to give back to the nation by serving as a scientist for a federal department. Eventually, it is my intention to build my own research and development laboratory and company.

What impact do you ultimately hope to have on the world?

It is my hope that my work have a far reaching and profound impact, not only on my generation, but also for generations to come. I hope that myself, or a team that I am apart of provides a scientific breakthrough that serves as benchmark in its respective field, and affordably provides the world benefit, even to the most far reaching corners of the globe.

Can you speak to the overall impact the Nanoscience program has had on you?

The Nanoscience curriculum pushed me out of my comfort zone, and challenged me to look harder and study longer. It truly provided me perspective, not just within realm of nanoscience, but my entire outlook as a young scientist. The curriculum, in tangent with the dedicated faculty and staff, make for a remarkable undergraduate experience.

What has been the highlight of your Hokie career so far?

Thinking all of the time both in the classroom and out of the classroom, I can recall no better experience as a Hokie than the times I have spent with the professors and faculty that have propelled me so far. Specifically, Dr. Bevan, Dr. Finkielstein, Dr. Anne B., and Dr. Heflin. Without them, I would not be the scientist I am today.