Pitt Bio Blog
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.
If you read my “About Me” blog you know that I have transferred to Pitt from the local community college, CCAC, and will be graduating late, which isn’t the normal route for most students. I also commute to and from Pitt from my house in the South Hills and it takes two buses for me to get to class, which is about an hour to an hour and a half each way. I made this decision as soon as I got accepted into Pitt because of the money I am saving and accessibility to get to my lifeguarding job on weeknights and weekends. This situation can be incredibly stressful at times, but if anyone else is commuting or transferring, this post may help you out!
My first word of advice is to always plan to take an earlier bus than you anticipate because as we all know, Port Authority isn’t the greatest at being on time. For example, if I have a 9am class, I will catch a 7:30am bus into downtown and then catch another into Oakland. This way, I have time to walk to where I need to be and grab a coffee or breakfast! If I am driving in that day, I still leave at 7:30am because traffic is also super unpredictable, as well as parking. Another tip is that although this takes away about 3 hours of my day, I usually do all the reading I need to do for class on the bus. For classes with scientific papers, articles etc. this is the perfect time to catch up with your reading because there isn’t really much else to do, except scroll through Instagram and Twitter (which is an incredibly bad habit I have) or stare out the window and listen to music. I would say the last thing about commuting is that it’s also a great time to reflect on what you have done that day and what else you plan on doing. Write down everything that needs to get done and maybe take a little bit of “me time” and actually listen to that new album or podcast you’ve been planning on. Doing little things like this on your commute can make life easier because think of all the money you are saving and still getting things done!
The transfer process from CCAC to Pitt was rather difficult, I don’t want to lie to you. It’s incredibly hard to find a resource from both Pitt and CCAC that you can rely on for all of the correct information. I got incredibly lucky to have had the Biology Advisors come to talk at CCAC about the process, and how to make it easier on me. All of your classes, no matter what college you are transferring from, will usually never all transfer over. There are always one or two classes that you may have to retake or fight for to count as credits. I received about 70 credits from CCAC to obtain my Associates degree, which was my choice, instead of focusing completely on transfer credits, and only around 45 credits transferred to Pitt. I knew this was going to happen so it isn’t a surprise that I will be graduating later than normal, but I believe that this process will 100% benefit me in the long run. Always look at the articulation agreements between colleges (just Google it!) and never be afraid to ask questions. I was very intimidated when it came time to contact someone at Pitt because I was scared to start the process. It is daunting at first, but the biology advisors and biology peer advisors only want to make it easier for you. If anyone reading this ever has any questions about anything, I am always available to listen, answer any questions and help with anything that I can! (email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Molecular Biology (Cell & Developmental Biology) Senior and pre-PhD
College is unique in that there will likely not be a time in your life again where you are a part of a network of people who are there to solely help and support you. Think about it: there are professors, advisors, counselors, and many more who are all rooting for you, and it is their duty to support you and assist you toward reaching your goals. This may not be the case after you graduate so it is important to take advantage of this supportive network of people while you can. Some wise advice I gained my first year was asking questions means you are learning. In class, this means you are engaging with the material, and you are in touch with what you know and what you don’t know. But this idea can extend beyond what you are learning in your classes. Maybe you don’t know where your major can take you after graduation or you are not sure you are on the right path toward achieving your goals; there are people to help with that too. College can be hard sometimes, and I don't recommend that you do it alone. The longer I have been here, the more I find myself reaching out to others for help and guidance. In other words, learn from others’ mistakes so you don’t have to.
Of course, this is college, and your primary goal is to learn. However, classes are challenging, and I believe the hardest part can be learning how to learn. College courses tend to go beyond the memorization that you may have done in high school. For many this is a difficult adjustment, but it is about finding the most effective study strategies that help you to understand the material and apply it while test taking. Luckily, there is a plethora of resources to help you do just that. First, there are professor and UTA office hours. Meeting with the professor can be invaluable if you are not understanding a concept taught in class because they are the one teaching it! Also, this is a great way to establish a relationship with the professor. However, all professors hold different style office hours and if they don’t seem to be working for you, UTA office hours are a great option as well. Likely, these are students who took the class and did well. However, if you find yourself needing more, then try one-on-one tutoring. The Study Lab located in the Gardner Steel Conference Center allows you to work one-on-one with a tutor who took the class and performed well. This is by appointment, so you can make it a part of your weekly schedule. The Mobile Study Lab on the Hillman ground floor is also a great option. These are drop in tutoring sessions with peer tutors who often times took that class. I believe this is a great option for classes that do not have UTAs. Sometimes I didn’t know I needed help until I needed it when I would be working on Organic Chemistry homework in Hillman. I could walk down to the ground floor and receive help immediately. It was also beneficial to hear other students’ questions and what they were struggling with, and often times they were other students in my class. An additional resource I have found helpful is the Writing Center located in the O’Hara Student Center (appointments are also available in Hillman). This has been invaluable for my writing classes so I can feel confident about my assignments. One-on-one appointments range from a half hour to an hour depending on your needs, and the online scheduler makes it easy if you know you have an essay coming up. Also, this is not limited to help with a writing course. If you are writing something (personal statements, cover letters, etc.), they can help you.
But if we are being honest, college is a lot more than just your classes. It can be overwhelming and emotionally draining at times. I can’t say that I have not had an emotional breakdown in Hillman once or twice, but it does not need to be that way. Again, utilizing the network of people that surround you is key because they have gone through similar struggles. First, never hesitate to ask for emotional help of any kind. The Counseling Center has walk ins (M-F 9-12 & 1-4) and appointments which is amazing. It does not matter whether you believe your issues are small or large, they are there to help. Also, don’t forget about the Biology Advisors. While you have one mandatory meeting with them, you can meet with them as much as you want. Whenever you see their doors open, don’t be afraid to pop in and ask a question even if it’s a small one. They can help you with scheduling and directing you to other resources you may need. And, of course, there are peer advisors (like me) available to you too. We have office hours, and we want to help you. Now as a senior applying to PhD programs, I regret not talking to more people about the process, like the peer advisors. Find yourself asking the question "What do I want to be when I grow up?", The Career Center may be the place for you. Find out what kind of jobs people get with your major, receive help crafting your resume and cover letter and more. Emily Bennett who works as the Career Center deals specifically with students in STEM-related fields.
Remember, there is no shame in asking questions. Set goals for yourself, and do whatever you need to do to achieve them. Having questions does not necessarily mean you are struggling but rather you have a greater awareness of what you need to be most successful. You don’t need to do this alone, and you aren’t doing this alone. Even on such a large campus it can feel lonely at times, but reach out to form those connections. You never know where they may lead you.
Biological Sciences senior, Museum Studies minor, Pre-Physical Therapy
We live in a world where constantly being busy and not having enough time to sleep, eat, or exercise is glorified and almost idolized. But it does not make you better than someone else if you are completing more tasks throughout the day but are constantly sleep-deprived and in a bad mood. It is healthy to take a day, or two, for yourself and just do whatever makes you happy. As a college student the best time to do that is on the weekends. In this post I’m going to share with you my 6 best tips to start your week off on the right foot.
It has taking me until senior year to actually have a life routine and feel prepared for classes. But you can implement these small changes one at a time and then you can see all the differences they have on your everyday routine.
Biological Sciences Junior, Biology Peer Advisor, Peer Tutor at Study Lab
Have you ever struggled with a challenging concept in one of your classes? Maybe you have but you convinced yourself that the professor would be fair enough to not include that material on the exam or that sheer luck would save you from having to understand it. Do you ever wonder how some students are able to reach high levels of achievement in their courses while also balancing their time between extra-curricular activities including clubs, TAing, volunteering, and research? Maybe you have...but you disregarded it because you feel as if you are not capable of performing to such an extent.
I am going to let you guys in on a little secret pertaining to academic success in college. As a peer tutor here on campus, tutoring is one of the most valuable resources available to students who are either dealing with dense coursework or just need someone to talk to for advice on time management, organizational skills, or even life! Students tend to hesitate to utilize this resource because they believe tutoring to be for students who are unintelligent and lacking in confidence. With this being my third semester as a peer tutor, I can honestly say that these misconceptions are inaccurate; all of the students I have tutored in the past have had the capacity to attain academic excellence hidden beneath a layer of self-doubt. As a tutor, it is my responsibility to assist students in not only understanding dense material, but to also help them build their self-confidence in attacking challenging problems while simultaneously offering them insight into how to become an independent learner.
Before I continue further, I would like to introduce myself briefly. My name is Luke Scherz and I am a junior majoring in Biological Sciences along the pre-medicine track (that's me in the picture above!). I have been tutoring BIOSC 0150 and BIOSC 0160 for two semesters, while this will be my first semester also tutoring NROSCI 1000 and CHEM 0320. I became a tutor because I love teaching and I love science. As a high achiever in these courses, I am more than happy to share my knowledge and secrets about how to also attain a high level of success through studying tips, academic coaching, and navigation of challenging concepts.
Alright, enough talk about myself. Let’s get back into discussing tutoring. This resource, which is available to all Pitt students, is located at the Gardener Steel Conference Center on the ground level (G1). A multitude of subjects, including General Chemistry (CHEM 0110 & 0120), Foundations of Biology (BIOSC 0150 & 0160), Organic Chemistry (CHEM 0310 & 0320), Physics (PHYS 0110, 0111, 0174, & 0175), Economics, and Statistics, are available to students who need assistance in these courses. Now called the Study Lab, this tutoring center encourages all students, not only students who need immediate assistance, to stop by and talk to any of the peer tutors. The peer tutors are available to talk about anything that is on your mind, whether it be academically related or not. The beauty of peer tutoring is that we are also students who understand what it is like to be in college and the hardships that many students face on a daily basis. I encourage any student reading this to go out and schedule an appointment with one of our peer tutors so you can gain a sense of what is available to you through the Study Lab here on campus. Before I leave, I would like to offer you guys a piece of advice: do not wait to utilize this resource! Many students schedule tutoring appointments immediately after a bad exam score. Knowing of this resource, I encourage students to attend tutoring prior to an exam so that we can best prepare you for it and avoid the bad grade all together. I wish you all a great semester and hope to see you in the Study Lab!
My name is Sarah Reilly and I am a Microbiology major currently in my junior year. I transferred from Community College of Allegheny College (CCAC) with my Associate of Science in Biotechnology just last fall on a scholarship known as BioMas funded by the NSF and due to the way credits transfer from CCAC to Pitt, I am a year behind unfortunately so I will be a “super-senior.” Although I am graduating later than planned, my community college experience taught me such incredible hands-on experience for biological and chemical lab work as well as opening up many opportunities for me. Last summer, I worked as a biology lab manager at CCAC North campus where I managed 12 classes ranging from Anatomy and Physiology to Biology 1 and it helped teach me time management as well as experience in multiple types of biology labs. I just recently finished the HHMI summer fellowship in Dr. Kevin Kohl’s lab where I will be working this semester performing research on gut microbiomes and animal physiology. I plan to hopefully get into the field of clinical microbiology to become a medical lab technologist or lab supervisor. I am incredibly excited to be a Bio Peer Advisor and hope you stop by to visit during my office hours on Thursdays from 3:00-4:00.
Hey I’m Cory Perry. I’m a senior Biological Sciences major with a minor in Law! Aside from school I love to travel, cook, listen to Ariana Grande, and especially shop! I also am very active within the department - as a Peer Advisor and a UTA for a number of different classes include the Human Phys labs in the spring and the nonmajors Human Body lecture course in the fall. In the spring, I am also applying for an undergraduate teaching fellowship! After graduation, I plan on going to law school for either patent or criminal defense law :) Stop by and chat during my office hours Wednesdays from 5:00-6:00.
Hey guys! My name is Luke Scherz and I am in my junior year here at Pitt. I am majoring in the Biological Sciences along the pre-medicine track with the intentions of becoming a pediatric dermatologist. I am a Pittsburgh native and some of my personal interests include cooking, teaching, and EDM. I also tutor Biology 1 and 2, Intro to Neuroscience, and Organic Chemistry 2 at the Study Lab (formerly the ARC) here on campus. I decided to become a Biology Peer Advisor this semester because I desire to not only help students navigate their major requirements, but to also connect students with the resources we have here on campus, including research opportunities, clubs, and societies. I am extremely excited for the semester and look forward to assisting students navigate their academic career. Stop by my office hours on Tuesdays from 2:30-3:30.
Hi! My name is Julia Swarthout, and I’m a senior studying Biological Sciences. I grew up just outside of Boston, Massachusetts, alongside my twin sister, older sister, and older brother. I decided mainly to come to Pittsburgh because of how amazing the biology program is for preparing students for medical school, and also what an exciting city Pittsburgh is. Biology has always been a passion of mine, and getting to study it here at Pitt has been such a rewarding ride for me. My goal is to go to medical school and eventually become a reproductive endocrinologist, as I would love to be able to help women who struggle with infertility and having children. I currently work as an undergraduate researcher at the Center for Vaccine Research, in a lab that focuses on understanding and searching for cures for HIV through the use of non-human primates. I also work as an undergraduate teaching assistant for introductory biology courses, and as a cashier at Piada Italian Street Food. I volunteer at West Penn Hospital, where I work to help prevent delirium in elderly patients, and I serve homeless people dinner at a church downtown. When I’m home, I work as a home health aid for elderly patients in my community. In my free time, I love getting to explore different parts of Pittsburgh, and am always looking for new adventures! Cooking, watching Netflix, and reading are some of my favorite things to do when I have spare time. I look forward to meeting everyone during my office hours on Tuesdays from 5:30 - 6:30!
Welcome to the fall 2019 semester! This semester we have 11 Bio Peer Advisors ready to share their experiences and answer your questions! Stop by and say hi!
Hi guys! My name is Colton Brown, and I am a senior majoring in Biological Sciences with a certificate in Conceptual Foundations of Medicine. In addition, I am the Business Manager for the Dental Science Club. I plan to attend dental school following graduation. Currently, I conduct research at Pitt’s Dental School in the Department of Anesthesia. Furthermore, I have spent the last four summers working as a counselor at a summer camp for children with disabilities. Without a doubt, I spend the majority of my free time at the golf course. As a Peer Advisor, I am looking forward to using personal experiences to assist other undergraduate students in the department. I would not be where I am today without the advice I received from others, so come talk to me during my office hour! (Mondays 4:30-5:30)
Hi! My name is Nicole Eng and I am a junior with a Biological Sciences major and Neuroscience and Chemistry minors. I am originally from northern Jersey. I have always had a love for science and ever since taking my first biology class in 9th grade I knew this was the path that I was going to follow. I am a premed student involved in the Red Cross Club and Phi Delta Epsilon. Working with my advisors and other students helped me to create a more organized schedule for classes and other activities. I am excited to be able to help other students do the same and guide them through their biology journey! Please stop by and say hi during my office hours (Mondays 4:30-5:30)
Hi, my name is Sarah, and I am a junior from Beaver, Pennsylvania. I am expected to graduate in May 2021 with a degree in the Biological Sciences, and then will hopefully continue my education in graduate school with a master’s degree genetic counseling. Over the summer, I participated in the HHMI fellowship in Dr. Kevin Kohl’s lab, which focuses on animal physiology and gut microbiota, in which I studied the digestive enzyme cellulase. This year I will continue in the Kohl Lab, with research involving evolutionary ecology and flow cytometry. Out of the classroom, I like playing soccer with friends, watching Steeler football, and anything that involves dogs. I can’t wait to become more involved in Pitt’s bio department and be a peer advisor! Stop by and say hi Thursday from 3:00-4:00.
My name is Lauren Lotka, and I am a senior Pitt student hailing from Spring City, PA (outside Philly). I am a Molecular Biology major on the Cell and Developmental Biology track. I am also an undergraduate researcher in Dr. Karen Arndt’s lab where I study chromatin structure and how it plays a crucial role in regulating gene expression. Over Summer 2019, I had the privilege of continuing my work in the Arndt Lab under the Samuel D. Colella Fellowship. Additionally, I have served as an Undergraduate Teaching Assistant for the SEA PHAGES laboratory course and Dr. McGreevy’s Foundations of Biology I course. My passion for research and academia has inspired my goal to attend graduate school in order to earn a PhD in Molecular and Cell Biology. Outside of class I like to stay active by doing yoga, playing tennis, and taking walks. As hobbies, I also enjoy sewing, knitting, and reading. I look forward to meeting you during my office hours (Tuesdays 5:30-6:30)
Come say Hi! My name is Amy McLaughlin and I am a senior majoring in Biological Sciences, with minors in Chemistry and Museum studies, on a pre-physical therapy track. I am from Springfield, NJ, and on campus I am apart of Greek Life and the Rehabilitation Science Student Association. Additionally, I volunteer at UPMC Mercy in their physical therapy gym and I am currently doing research at UPMC Magee in their OBGYN & Reproductive Science department. Come say hi during my office hours: Wednesdays from 5:00-6:00.
Hi! My name is Samhita (Sam) Ravi and I am a senior from New Jersey majoring in Microbiology with minors in Chemistry and Religious Studies. I am also pursuing a certificate in Managing Health Service Projects and Programs. My fun fact is that I am a triplet and both of my brothers are also seniors at Pitt. As an avid volunteer, I am involved in the Patient Ambassador Program at UPMC Presbyterian where I help train other volunteers in the Patient Experience program. My other volunteering pursuits include volunteering with the Pitt Sports Nutrition Department where I work at the two nutrition centers for the athletes at Pitt. I am also a teaching assistant for Foundations of Biology 1. In addition, I work with a team at the Center for Liver Diseases at UPMC on the causes and effects of alcoholic liver disease and cirrhosis. On some days, you can find me at the O’Hara Student Center where I am a house manager in the office. In my free time, I enjoy playing basketball on my intramural team with my brothers as well as running through and exploring Pittsburgh with friends. C0me learn more about my experiences at my office hours: Tuesdays from 2:30-3:30.
Pitt Bio Blog
The Pitt Bio Blog is maintained by the Department of Biological Sciences Advising Office. Posts are authored by our students