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.
Junior BIOSC major
Entering freshman year as a new student immersed in an environment filled with opportunity for social development and new academic obligations can be an overwhelming experience for anyone. For myself, I struggled initially with the transition from high school to college since I never put consistent effort into my high school academic workloads. Like most people I have talked to, high school classes consisted mainly of regurgitating information implicitly outlined in a provided study guide rather than actively learning material to build long-term memory and understanding. Before college, I never understood what it meant to study or what that phrase really meant in terms of time commitment. Over the past three years, I have learned the art of time management and hope to give some advice on how you could master it and all of the benefits it confers to both one’s academic and social life.
As a science major, many of you know of the intense academic expectations that accompany science courses. Not only does each course require 2-3 hours outside of class (sometimes even a lot more - I am looking at you, biochem), but students are also expected to be involved in social clubs, building and maintaining relationships with professor, conducting independent research, exercising, and oh, also sleeping for 8 hours every night! As a freshman, this can be a daunting challenge to many since most incoming students lack the ability to effectively manage time. In order to become a successful college student, time management skills must be implemented early into one’s routine since they are crucial to both academic and mental health. Now I am well aware of the stress that comes from trying to maintain all of these activities during the semester. After some trial and error throughout my own academic career, I have finally perfected my organizing routine and can happily say that I have a strong grip on my time management capabilities. Giving some insight into what my routine looks like, I am going to discuss some of the techniques I employ throughout the semester to stay ahead of my course material!
Setting the scene: it is the beginning of a new semester with new classes and new professors. It is the first day of classes and I have just now finished my last class for the day and am headed home. Once I get home, I warm up some leftovers from the fridge and head to my bedroom so I can begin to organize my semester outlook. At the beginning of every semester, I copy all important dates such as exams, project deadlines, quizzes, and homework due dates into my planner as soon as I receive all of my syllabi. This is the first component of my time management routine and I cannot stress how important this part of the process is to success! As all college students know, time moves fast, which makes it very easy to forget about smaller projects or homework deadlines. By copying all important dates at the start of the semester, it is near impossible to become blind-sided by an unexpected due date (just make sure you are looking at your planner every day).
After eating my leftovers and transcribing all the important dates into my planner, I unwind for a little and listen to some music or watch some TV. As the day comes to a close and I am getting ready for bed, I plan out my objectives for the next day in my planner before going to bed. With this being the second component of my time management skills, planning for the day ahead is a crucial step since it clearly establishes what I need to accomplish and keeps me on track in terms of homework planning and studying times. I use a sticky note and stick it to the day block but whatever method works for you in terms of planning your daily objectives, go for it! As long as you clearly outline what you need to get done for the day then you will be on your way to success. I do suggest though that when you are planning for the day ahead, put some thought and effort into it. For example, if you have an exam in a week, try to split up studying times across the week so you do not have to cram for an entire day. After deciding how you are going to split up the times, be sure to write the amount of time you plan on studying the next day and stick to it! As you know, studying is all about efficiency.
Fast forwarding to the first wave of midterms: it is a week before my first two exams. I am well aware of these tests since I copied them into my planner weeks prior and have also accounted for them in my daily objectives. Now all I have left to do is study for them. When it comes to studying, like I said before, it is all about efficiency. In order to be an efficient student, one must learn the art of time management. Let’s say that I have an upcoming exam in biochemistry. How do I approach this exam in a time effective manner? My first piece of advice would be to start as early as possible. Now I know this does not sound ideal to most students but trust me when I say that if you want to succeed in your courses and retain the information for the long run, begin about a week from the exam. Depending on exam overlaps, you may want to begin a little earlier since science material can be dense and overwhelming at times. Before delving into studying, plan out your week and how much material you want to cover each day, whether it be a chapter or PowerPoint per day. Once you have developed your plan, be sure to actively study and engage with the material. Take breaks every 30-45 minutes and make sure to eat and drink plenty of water. In terms of time management, if you stick to your plan and stay motivated and are taking breaks and drinking water, you are guaranteed to study efficiently. It is all about the organized plan! Stick to it and you will see yourself covering more material in a lesser amount of time and who doesn’t love less time in the library.
Moving to the end of my exam week: I have just finished my last exam. What now? Do I go hangout with friends or find something else to study? My answer to that question is to go out and hang with friends! Life is all about balance and managing your time effectively gives you the freedom to go out and have fun while still staying on top of all of your responsibilities. School is very important but so is your social life. Go out, make friends, and have fun! After listening to some of the techniques I use to time manage, I hope this has inspired some of you to prioritize this skill since it offers nothing but benefits. Balancing school with a social life can seem like a daunting challenge but it is something that is extremely attainable by all students. Time management allows for students to balance it all and still have fun while doing it. On that note, stay motivated, stay focused, and be sure to have some fun!
BIOSC Senior and all around all-star
We have been hearing about COVID-19 on the news since the end of last year. At the time we didn’t know the situation would escalate to what is has become. In the midst of a pandemic with stay-at-home orders, essential movement only, and remote school and work, it is important to disinfect and wash our hands to prevent ourselves from getting or passing an illness to someone else. It is equally important to make sure we are taking care of our mental and emotional health too. This is an extremely confusing, stressful, and uncertain time, but eventually life will go back to normal. People will be able to go into work again, we will be able to go out to eat after 8pm again, and there will be enough toilet paper for everyone.
Some tips to take care of yourself as we work and learn remotely:
1. Stick to your morning routine.
With students taking classes online and people working from home, it is easy to just want to get everything done as soon as possible while still in your pajamas. But I encourage everyone to still make coffee and eat breakfast without distractions and to get ready like you would on any normal work or school day. This provides you with time to be relaxed before working or learning and makes your work time more productive. DO NOT LIE IN BED. Sit at your desk or kitchen table and set timers. Set a time for however long you expect going through one lecture will take. Set a short timer for a break. Set a timer for lunch time. Then when you are done with everything for the day, you are able to completely relax and enjoy a tv show or spending time with your family.
Moving your body will likely make you feel better when in a rut. Most gym facilities are closed at the moment, but this is a great time to take a walk outside and be with nature. If there is a gym studio you love see if they are offering online classes. My favorite spin studio in Pittsburgh, 6ycle, offers hybrid classes called “hardCORE” and “booty sculpt” where the first half is spin and the second half consists of floor work. Currently, they are posting the floor work portion of their classes to their Instagram. I have seen other barre and pilates classes do this as well on Instagram and Facebook. And when all else fails, find a yoga or body weight video on YouTube.
3. Eat well
What you consume can definitely make or break how you feel during the day. This is a perfect time to make a new recipe you’ve been wanting to try. Or if you don’t want to cook, many restaurants are still open for take-out. You get a great meal and they still get your business, it’s a win-win situation. This is not a time to be continuously snacking on jellybeans or some other less-than-healthy snack at all hours of the day.
4. Stay connected
While everyone should be practicing social distancing, that does not mean social isolation. You can still FaceTime your friends, family members, or favorite bio advisor. Having social interaction is good for mental health, and you don’t have to carve out a lot of time, even just 20 minutes will be beneficial. You can even become pen pals for this short time and look forward to getting the mail every morning to see if they wrote you back. I know a lot of bio faculty who would love pen pals for their very bored kids!
5. Set one goal every day.
Staying home and doing work every day can become monotonous. Setting a goal or planning one thing to look forward to each day can be motivating. This could be a special movie night, making a special dinner, running one mile every day (or training for an upcoming virtual race), or organize your closet. Having a special task or something to look forward to can break up the days and make this time a little less daunting. During social distancing we may have a little extra time (no more commuting) to complete tasks we have been putting on the back burner – what’s on your goal list?
When I first learned about Pitt cancelling in-person classes and moving to remote learning, it made me think of all the things that my fellow classmates and I would be missing for the rest of the semester. But, it also made me realize that there can be some things that we as students can do to improve the situation for ourselves as well as others (and keep up with classes!).
1. Take some time to relax and regroup
In an unprecedented situation such as this, it can be confusing and upsetting. There is a lot of unknown that can leave us overthinking. With the extended spring break and possibly being at home, it’s a great time to spend time with family and take a little break before getting back to taking online exams and watching lectures on your computer. Maybe even try some meditation (some free guided meditations here: https://www.mindful.org/audio-resources-for-mindfulness-meditation/)
2. Start making a plan of important things to do
Since most of us will likely be keeping up with our classes at home and the possibility of asynchronous classes (do on your own schedule) our study routines are likely out the window. As you start to hear from your professors about updated course plans, start making a plan that will be useful to keep track of class requirements as well as avoid the laziness that is expected when staying at home in your comfy bed. While changes to the course midstream can be very stressful, know that your professors have your best interest at heart - they are working this week to find the best ways to get information to you in the best ways. They know that this transition will be hard, but we will all take it day by day.
3. Find a good place to focus and study
Of course nothing can beat staying in bed and finishing assignments on your laptop, but sometimes finding a good place to study is helpful, especially for classes that might involve video communication. Although at this point the public library is probably not an option, utilizing your kitchen table or even a table on your deck or porch (fortunately the weather is getting warmer) is a great place to focus. Maybe take some time this week off to style your backdrop for any video conference classes/office hours you might have?
4. Use this time to find ways to get involved in your local community
It’s likely that at this point, in-person volunteering in Pittsburgh or elsewhere is not an option. Try some creativity! Maybe reach out to an old elementary/middle/high school teacher and see if you can help them with their remote learning - you can make a video sharing your college/volunteer/research experience. With libraries and schools closed, you might record yourself reading some books for kids to watch and share with your local community board. Write a blog post for PittBioBlog on your favorite class or experience at college. So many ways to help out while still practicing social distancing.
5. Find ways to stay in touch with your professors and classmates
Most first year students and some upperclassmen may have never had online classes before and don’t know what to expect. The most important thing is to keep in contact with your professors for any assignments, as well as keep in touch through virtual office hours as much as possible. If you don’t have your classmates’ numbers for group projects, remember, email still works too! Pitt now has Zoom, which makes it really easy to chat with a group of people: https://pitt.zoom.us
Please help us inform the Univer
6.If you need help with schoolwork, still keep in touch with your TAs and tutors
Some students find it easier to contact their TAs and tutors when in school, especially in the evenings when studying. Don’t be afraid to contact your TAs and tutor for help in the upcoming weeks so you can do well in your classes.
7.Check your email regularly
Check your email for class information, CourseWeb updates, and updates from the university. Remember, staying informed and staying safe are important mantras for the rest of the semester.
Although these circumstances were unexpected when we started this semester, sometimes we have to adapt and stay informed. As a graduating senior, I did not expect my four years at Pitt to end this way. But, sometimes things happen unexpectedly and we just need to keep moving forward. Remember, although we Bio Peer Advisors are physically not around at Pitt, we’re still here through email if you need someone to reach out to! If you have any questions about scheduling classes and advising appointments, be sure to keep up with the Bio Dept. Announcements as well!
Stay safe and informed for the rest of the semester!
Junior BIOSC major currently studying for his MCATs
You’ve all heard the stereotypes: college professors are lackluster individuals who have few interests outside the academic domain and are proudful of their reputation as being the most difficult professor. Now I know that some of you are well aware that this is a dramatic exaggeration, but I also know that many of you still hold this stereotype to be true. In fact, this stigma about professors being these intimidating figures of authority is one of the many reasons why most students fail to utilize one of the most beneficial resources available to them as undergraduates, office hours!
In order to undermine this pervasive stereotype of professors, I interviewed one of the BIOSC professors, Dr. Linda O’Reilly, to show that many college professors are people just like you who have extremely active personal lives beyond their job as a professor. I have had the pleasure to not only take Dr. O’Reilly for both Foundations 1 & 2, but also to perform undergraduate research underneath her sponsorship and serve as a UTA for her BIOSC 0150 course last fall.
The first question I asked Dr. O’Reilly pertained to her winter break and what fun activities she did. She told me that much of her winter break was spent with family, particularly a lot of time in their pajamas and enjoying each other’s company. Dr. O’Reilly stressed the fact that it is very important to find balance in life, especially balance between work and one’s personal life. Some activities Dr. O’Reilly enjoys outside of work include exercising (walking and running) and Ti Chi, which is form of Kung Fu! She told me that her family is very active, and they enjoy doing many activities together.
She teaches BIOSC 0150, 0160, and 1010; interestingly, Dr. O’Reilly is the only professor here at Pitt that teaches both semesters of Foundations Bio (BIOSC 0150 & 0160). After asking her about what she loves about the courses she teaches, she told me that while she loves seeing the skill development and formation of study habits in the two semesters of foundations, she does not like the large class size since it makes it difficult for individualized attention. In other words, students are more likely to get lost the in the sheer number of their peers. For this reason, she loves teaching BIOSC 1010 since the class size is much smaller and allows for individualized attention. Furthermore, she told me that she loves BIOSC 1010 since she has the opportunity to see how far along her students have come in their academic careers!
Interested in Dr. O’Reilly’s biography, I asked her about what influenced her decision to pursue a career in biology. She responded by telling me a brief story about her high school biology teacher who was a young female teacher among a sea of male teachers. She had great respect for her bio teacher and thought that if this woman can do make it in a field dominated by men, so could she! Her passion initially led her to pursue a career as a high school bio teacher, but soon transformed into pursuing bioanalysis. She began work in a research lab and soon became a mentor to many newer members of the lab. She emphasized to me the importance of her mentors along her journey to receiving her PhD in biochemistry. Although she did not initially plan to obtain a PhD, she told me that with the support and guidance of her mentors along the way, she discovered her passion for science and teaching and correspondingly entered a PhD program.
Discussing her current research, Dr. O’Reilly does not perform any wet lab research but is very interested in academic research. Specifically, she is interested in improving the learning experience in the classroom by establishing an engaging environment for the students. Interestingly, she told me that some BIOSC faculty and herself began 3D printing macromolecules in order to better illustrate to students the difference between major and minor grooves in DNA.
I concluded the interview with a question asking about any advice she would offer to incoming students interested in pursuing a degree in biology. She responded by saying that incoming students must reach out and establish connections with their professors, finding mentors that will help guide them along their academic career. She also stressed the importance of utilizing UTA’s since they are an extremely under-utilized resource that is available to students. Lastly, she said that incoming students must be honest with themselves. If you need help, seek it as soon as possible. It is ok to ask for help, no one is perfect!
Now that I have hopefully shifted some of your opinions on college professors, I encourage all of you to attend office hours and get more involved! Establishing relationships with faculty members is crucial to academic success!
Junior MOLBIO Major
What to become, what to become, what to become?
(GC)I always loved biology, but being a doctor never struck my fancy. Becoming a veterinarian to save baby animals was still on the table when I arrived at Pitt, but while pursuing involvement in research, I rooted out what really buttered my brain: genetics. I took Genetics at Pitt while working in a lab focused on evolutionary development, and molecular biology and research became my career ground zero. I started to ponder genetic counseling when my mom brought up an organization she had worked with, National Organization for Rare Disorders, and how they collaborated with genetic counselors in their studies.
Genetic counseling is, for the most part, exactly what it sounds like: being an advisor and a river guide to people who might benefit from genetic testing in their healthcare. Either in-person or over the phone, genetic counseling (GC) is a conversation with someone who is trained to understand your family history and how heritable traits could affect you or your children. It is their job to suggest appropriate genetic testing for your situation and ensure you understand not only the process but also any results. Most GC work in settings with other doctors and can provide general care or specialize in areas such as:
Clinical genetic counselors work a relatively standard office 9-5. They see patients that are referred to them by associated physicians and work up case files about their visit, things to discuss, and notes on any research for their condition. One of the great things about genetic counseling is what a young medicine genetic testing is. New discoveries are being generated all the time, and GC’s are tasked with staying up to date on new research and tests so if a patient wasn’t able to be tested before, perhaps they can be now. GC’s in large medical establishments are often in charge of advocating for their field by attending meetings to remind physicians of the things they can/cannot refer patients for and provide their unique perspective to the medical ecosystem.
“But you said you loved lab work?” Laboratory Counselors do both! They work behind the scenes, reviewing the tests ordered, analyzing and clinically correlating results, educating health providers, and working on research and development. Research-focused genetic counselors can collect information such as detailed family histories and pregnancy information that facilitate advances in research and care for people with genetic conditions.
Genetic counselors are primarily acknowledged for their knowledge of genetics, but their counseling is often of unspoken importance. While GC’s don’t spend their days with absolutes like “you have cancer” or “your baby has down syndrome,” they do spend a lot of time with people in the “what-if” stage of worry. For many, not knowing is even worse than certainty and it is the counselor’s job to hear their concern and help in any way possible to make the process as streamlined and easy to understand as possible. Analyzing risks in their health, the client needs to feel at ease to open up and to know that what is being measured is not “will/will not” but rather “less/more likely to than the average bear.” Like in any difficult conversation, a friendly and understanding aura goes a long way.
Sound interesting? Stop by my office hours Wednesdays from 6-7 to learn more. Check out more here:
National Society of Genetic Counselors: https://www.nsgc.org/
Pitt Genetic Counseling Program: https://publichealth.pitt.edu/gcprogram
Pitt Genetic Counseling Program requirements: https://publichealth.pitt.edu/human-genetics/academics/ms-in-genetic-counseling/admissions
MOLBIO (Cell & Developmental Bio) Senior
Being a STEM major and pursuing a career in the field has many challenges. While studying for exams and completing long lists of assignments is a big source of stress, this is not the only cause of anxiety. In addition to classes, we are expected to join research labs, attend conferences, give presentations, UTA and much more. With these accomplishments and successes should come a feeling of competency and confidence in your abilities.
However, this is not always the case.
What you may be feeling is a phenomenon called imposter syndrome, which is common in students and professionals in the STEM field. It can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. It is accompanied by chronic self-doubt and “intellectual fraudulence” that overrides any feelings of success or accomplishment. I first experienced this after joining a research lab in the department. I always felt insecure about talking about science and my research because I didn’t feel like I was qualified or competent enough to talk about it despite the positive feedback I received from my fellow lab members. For me, the first step was recognizing how I felt and that the feeling is more common than I think. It is helpful to know you are not alone in your feelings and that it has nothing to do with actual competency or success.
But why does this happen?
Researchers suggest that imposter syndrome doesn’t equate with low self-esteem or a lack of self-confidence but instead is linked with perfectionism, especially among women. For those with imposter syndrome, it is common to have such thoughts and feelings as “I feel like a fake” or “It’s just luck.” Imposters often believe they give the impression that they are more competent than they actually are and have a deep feeling that they lack knowledge. There is also a tendency to downplay accomplishments and attribute success to luck or other external reasons and not their abilities.
So how can we overcome these negative feelings that come with imposter syndrome?
Like I mentioned, recognizing your feelings and why you are feeling them is the first step. For me, learning imposter syndrome existed alleviated a lot of the feelings I was having. However, it is still not perfect. It is ongoing and you have to constantly work at it. Remind yourself that it is okay to not know everything because there is a lot you do know. Take failures as learning opportunities and be kind to yourself when you make small mistakes (because everyone makes them). Also, talk about your feelings! Whether it is with friends, advisors, or trusted professors. It is likely that they have felt similar feelings before and talking out what you are feeling can be extremely helpful. So, remember to celebrate your accomplishments and know you are smarter than you think you are. You are where you are for a reason and that was through the hard work you put in.
Want to learn more and read about some seriously amazing people who also have imposter syndrome:
Talking about imposter syndrome is the best cure. Want to talk? Please let us know!
by Sam Ravi
Senior Micro Major
Last semester, I had the opportunity to take BIOSC 1860: Microbiology Lab (for microbiology majors) with Dr. Stefanie Hedayati. Dr. Hedayati is a wonderful professor; she makes sure to make the classes she teaches are an enjoyable experience for the students, as well as applicable to future professions that students may be interested in. Currently she is teaching BIOSC 0150: Foundations of Biology 1. With the first midterms coming up, I thought it would be a great opportunity to catch up with her as well as talk to her about biology and life in general.
How was your winter break and what fun activities did you do?
My winter break was good overall. I didn’t do a lot of fun activities except celebrate Christmas and spend time with the kids. Speaking of kids, a big part of winter break was them being sick. We took turns spreading the germs around in the house so everyone got to enjoy them :) I also spent a good amount of time prepping for the spring semester. So, overall I would say not too much fun stuff going on but it was overall good and enjoyable.
What classes do you teach and what is your favorite class to teach at Pitt?
In the fall I taught BIOSC 1860, the Microbio lab for majors. This semester I’m doing BIOSC 0150: Foundations of Biology 1 and BIOSC 1010: Communicating in the BioSciences. My favorite class...that is tough. I do like microbiology a lot and lab is always fun. But I’m also very partial to the material taught in 0150. So currently it’s a toss-up between those two.
What made you interested in the field of biology?
I was initially planning on going to med school but then during my last years in high school, I was part of our school’s first response team. My friends and boyfriend at the time were super into emergency medicine (a bunch of them were also volunteering with the mountain rescue teams we have in Southern Bavaria where I’m from) – so I got roped into that. I realized how terrified I actually was of helping someone medically and making a mistake. So then I decided not to become a physician. Biotechnology was a new major in one of the schools where I applied, and I figured it has lots of potential. Ultimately, I got into 'regular' Biology in Munich, which was really great. From there I focused on Microbiology, Biochem and Cell bio and have stuck with it ever since. It is so great and valuable to learn about how life works and it is not only useful for exams, research or any science-related career, but it also helps you understand certain aspects of your daily life better.
What is your favorite biology topic?
Protein folding and degradation. I haven’t really worked in it since grad school but it is still my favorite. I always hoped to study protein folding in extremophiles – never worked out though. But I enjoy reading and talking about it.
When not teaching or being involved in the bio department, what are your other hobbies?
Well, in grad school I started road biking. It was great to bike up the SF Bay area foothills to the Pacific and back. But I had no kids then and so I had a lot more time. My bike is still with me but I haven’t used it in years. I’m hoping to get back on it at some point. If anyone has some useful tips for routes around here – send them my way!
I started ice skating again after a 20 year hiatus since my 6-year old really wanted to try it and that is great fun to do together with her. Otherwise I spend a lot of my free time with my kids (parks, Children's Museum, Science Center… Pittsburgh is GREAT for that) and during the little alone time I have, I knit. I love knitting! Socks, sweaters, hats, scarves – anything really.
How did you make your decision to go to graduate school and to pursue a PhD?
That somehow just all fell into place. I finished my coursework in Munich, but before committing to a lab for my final thesis, I wanted to go 6 months abroad and do some research in microbiology. My professor in Munich established contact to a person in the US. Long story short, 6 months turned into almost 16 years that I have been here now. I knew I wanted to do a PhD to have options. I liked research and I was open to academic as well as industry research, but I also knew that a PhD will provide more flexibility. And while grad school definitely has its up and downs, it was overall a fantastic time and I’m so glad that I did it. I never regretted my decision.
What research are you interested in and currently involved in?
I’m hoping to spend some time this summer working on the secretory pathway in parallel to prepping for 1860 again. It is an authentic research-based course so there are always kinks and issues that could be worked out for future renditions of the class.
If you were to give advice to incoming students interested in pursuing a degree in the biology department what would it be?
Stay open to the many possibilities that biology offers. There is so much variety in the sub-fields of biology – you may come in with a certain idea of what you want to do, but openly evaluate everything we are trying to teach you to really see what strikes your interest. Many things will also fall in place in your higher semesters. While we all do our best to connect concepts and topics, in the beginning it is all very overwhelming. You have to take the material seriously and study, but you will also see that many things “click” in upper-division classes.
Talk to your professors and instructors. We all love biology and teaching so become part of the community, help us get to know you. And try to join a research lab. That is another great way to meet people who share similar interests and it is a good way to figure out if research is your thing.
What would your advice be for students who are graduating and are unsure of whether to pursue grad school or med school?
I think both are very good options and it ultimately depends on how clinically involved you want to be. MDs often also run labs in addition to practicing in hospitals, so you can definitely stay involved in research. But it probably will have a more medical/clinical aspect to it than the basic science PhDs often do. Both degrees also allow you to work in the pharmaceutical industry. On the other hand, with an MD it is not as likely to pursue routes like publishing, editing, science writing, patent law. I had quite a few friends who left university after grad school and became editors/writers for scientific journals or pursued a career in patent law. So a PhD may offer a little bit more flexibility for the time after grad school.
It can be daunting to approach professors to ask questions or have general conversation. But, professors are fantastic people who have much experience and are willing to help students in any way they can! Feel free to attend the events run by the Bio department; they are great opportunities to be introduced to professors as well as a great way to network with others.
Junior Computational Biology major
Having only recently become set on a major, I have had a lot of back and forth exploration throughout the biology department through my years at Pitt. One thing that really stood out to me before even trying to pick a major was how excited I was by living things, whether they were amoebae, plants, or rats.
Due to this interest I decided to apply to a vet internship last summer at the National Aviary. I applied not because I wanted to be a vet, but instead because that department at the Aviary seemed to be the most hands-on with the birds. I applied for position explaining my situation and how I liked the idea of doing some observational research on the birds, whether very scientific or not. I think I stuck out having this unique interest others did not have. Everyone else I worked with there was either a vet student or pre-vet student.
I got to help out with many different tasks including husbandry as well as medical procedures. Since the birds that we saw daily needed special medical attention, we had to make sure everything was clean for them and that they got the right treatment at all the proper times of the day. Treatments differed from patient to patient, but the birds that were really old or had a chronic illness lived in a fancy “old folk’s home” for birds. The hospital was in charge of the “bird old folk’s home”, so soon enough I learned all of their treatments by heart. Since the birds that live with the hospital always are too unwell to go back to the free flight areas, they get really used to the hospital staff and their personalities really come out. I had never thought of birds to have unique personal traits or attitudes before this job, but they really do each have very distinct personalities.
One of my favorite “residents” we had was named Buddy. He was a European Starling which is a very common bird I had recognized from laying in Schenley plaza on the warm days of the semester. Buddy did not have anything chronic going on, he was just extremely old. He would yell at me when I brought him his food and fall asleep while he was exclaiming.
Another one of the birds we had on full time care was named Hermie. He was a hybrid bird and made really unique noises at set times of the day. Hermie had anxiety when things were changed around, when they had renovated the hospital center and he got a big new enclosure he got really upset and anxious so they had to put him back in his original smaller home with his silly bird toys from the pet store instead of the new natural elements they have in the renovated area for playing. I did not realize how each bird individually had needs aside from what is suggested of their species. His enclosure was “too small” in terms for the species he was but with more space he got very ill and upset and pulled out his feathers.
Every day at a vet hospital is different, there can be emergencies, there can be births, there can be routine check-ups, and procedures. This made the internship really exciting and left me with so much new knowledge and respect for what goes into caring for birds. I hope from sharing just a few things about my amazing experience this summer, people can get an idea of how wonderful and top of the line the care is at the National Aviary. I could talk about so many things that went on there and how amazing it was forever, but I won’t right now (I feel like birds deserve a HIPPA form too!). Come and see me at my office hours to learn more!
"The Department of Biological Sciences is now the largest undergraduate department in the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences. There are almost 1,200 students declared across our majors (Biological Sciences, Computational Biology, Ecology & Evolution, Microbiology, and Molecular Biology) and many (MANY) other students who take classes in the CLC complex. While we are very proud that so many students love biology enough to call it their home during their time at Pitt, some of our students report feeling a bit overwhelmed by the numbers - having a hard time finding their "place", feeling anonymous, not knowing how to get to know their teachers and build their network.
This year, the Bio Peer Advisors received a Forge Your Own Path grant to build opportunities for biology students get to know each other, alumni, and faculty. We will be doing this both on-line - through Pitt Commons, a newish digital networking tool, and in-person with regular professional development and social events. We will also publish a series of interviews with biology faculty that will bring in-person one-on-one meetings to the community.
On-line Community Building
Pitt Commons is a new on-line networking site - similar to LinkedIn, but focused on building community among Pitt-affiliated students, alumni, faculty, and staff. Within Pitt Commons, students can join interest 'Groups' to find others on-campus - and beyond campus (in the 'real world') to build "networking or mentoring relationships". We have recently formed a Department of Biological Sciences interest group and are now recruiting current and former undergraduate students from the department to join. Want to hear from former BIOSC students currently in medical/dental/optometry school? Now we have a place to build those connections! Thinking about a career in nursing v. physical therapy - how about asking former students how they decided? As we build our on-line group, we will also begin invited alumni back to campus to move some virtual relationships into the real world! Students can join by signing up for Pitt Commons and joining the Department of Biological Sciences group.
In-person Community Building
Last week we held our first student-faculty breakfast where we brought together a small group of students to have breakfast with Dr. Debbie Chapman, Dr. Stefanie Hedayati, and Dr. Erica McGreevy.
(before FebrNext month, we will be holding our second student-faculty breakfast with Dr. Jeff Brodsky, Dr. Nathan Brouwer, and Dr. Suzanna Gribble. Start building your network now by reading a bit more about these faculty:
Students can earn the opportunity to join by signing up for Pitt Commons and joining the Department of Biological Sciences group - before February 7th.
Biology Faculty Interviews
To break down some barriers, our Bio Peer Advisors will be interviewing faculty in our department so that the whole community can get to know them a bit better. These interviews - as blogs and/or videos - will be shared on our PittBioBlog and give you the opportunity to find out some behind the scenes info on your favorite (or not) teachers - where did they go to school? Which classes did they like (or note!)? How did they choose their current career? What do they do when they are not in the CLC complex?
Have your own ideas of how to build our community? We are looking for suggestions for professional development and social events, faculty to invite for breakfast or lunch, and faculty who you would like to see interviewed. Please share your ideas here or email to Jessica at email@example.com.
And don't forget to follow us on facebook (www.facebook.com/pittbioadv) and/or instagram (pittbioadv) to find out about blogs and events
This term we have 12 amazing upperclass bio majors supporting our Department by giving their time to work as Bio Peer Advisors. 10 of these amazing students are returning from last term (and even last year!) and we have 2 new students joining our team: Hope & Kayla! Stop by office hours this semester to say hi and get to know our Bio-PAs a little better.
Majors: MOLBIO & ANTH
Minors: CHEM & GSWS
Career? Genetic Counseling or Biomedical Research
Hi! I am a Junior Molecular biology major who spends my days practicing with the sailing team, petting my cat, and now hopefully answering all your questions about Biological Sciences at Pitt! I have experience working with graduate researchers and would love to help you get involved with research too. I can also help you balance a schedule and plan ahead with multiple majors or share experiences as a UTA in the department. I am an open book who loves to listen and to share advice on classes, professors, studying, and life!
Major: CMPBIO (previously E&E)
Hi! I am a computational biology major on the path to becoming a software engineer post graduation. It took me a while to decide on a major so I also can answer questions on the ecology and evolution major as well as the environmental science major through the geology department. A few fun facts about me are that I am a DJ for Pitt’s radio station and work for Pitt’s Student Computing Department. Students can ask me about software engineering internship applications & interviews, computer science classes, how to get internships for biology (I was an intern for the National Aviary last summer), finding biology research, Pymatuning research, and environmental science classes.
Pitt Bio Blog
The Pitt Bio Blog is maintained by the Department of Biological Sciences Advising Office. Posts are authored by our students