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Biochemistry students sitting on a couch

One of the more remarkable outcomes from the 2022-23 academic year comes from the Biochemistry Department. Faculty and staff in the department hosted an intimate celebration this semester to mark a milestone that they hope repeats year after year.

“Every year, we are thrilled with our seniors, but we’ve never had 100 percent of our people get into graduate school, medical school, and PA schools, so this is phenomenal,” says Dr. Kevin Pate, McCoy Professor of Chemistry and Chair of the Department Chemistry and Biochemistry. “And it’s their first choices, too, which is the best part.”

Under the guidance of Dr. Suzanne Parsons, McCoy Professor of Biochemistry, Julie Schlanz ’23 has been researching and presenting research on how to kill melanoma cells. Most recently, she presented at the NASA Ohio Space Grant Consortium Symposium in Cleveland, just weeks after presenting at the American Chemical Society’s national meeting in Indianapolis. Schlanz is one of seven Biochemistry majors attending a graduate program this fall. She was accepted into all three of her top Ph.D. choices: The Ohio State University, the University of Cincinnati, and Case Western Reserve University.

“I was very shy coming into freshman year, but I’m not as shy anymore, and I feel like that has a lot to do with the faculty,” Schlanz says. “They really plan a lot of events for us and try to get us to open up and meet new people. I really appreciate that. I feel like I’m comfortable with the faculty and my fellow classmates. My biggest accomplishment so far, I’d have to say, is the research that I’ve done outside of class. I’ve been doing research for my Honors Thesis Capstone Project, and I feel like I’ve worked very hard on that since freshman year. I’m very proud of myself for doing that and it has influenced me to apply to graduate school. Dr. Parsons is my advisor and the main professor I’ve worked with. She started with me freshman year, guiding me in the research lab, teaching me how to grow cells, and connecting me with older students in the research lab so they could help me. All of this is a reflection of the work she put into me.”

Also attending a Ph.D. program is Colton Hall ’23, who will attend the University of Cincinnati. He’s still deciding whether to work in the field or to pursue working in higher education, but he knows he’ll be ready for either or both.

“I tutor for Chemistry subjects, and I really enjoy it, and I also have had great professors,” Hall says. “They help with every single step of the way.”

When he was ready to apply to graduate programs, he met with Professor Parsons first.

“She explained the process completely to make sure I was ready and knew what to expect,” Hall says. “When it came time to apply and I needed letters of recommendation, I knew I could ask any of my professors in the department. They were happy to do it. They want you to succeed and they’re ready to celebrate when you do.”

Jaden Koren ’23 and Dylan Beaver ’23 will be attending medical school. Koren will attend the University of Cincinnati and Beaver will attend Ohio University.

A naturally anxious person, Koren says Professor Jim Jeitler and Professor Parsons supported and mentored her through the application and interview process, making sure she had the right shadowing and internship experiences, and helping to calm her anxiety. She says the faculty make it a family atmosphere, right down to the common room outside of their offices.

“This room is open to us at all times so we’re able to come in to study, and Dr. Parsons is always providing snacks and makes sure we have food and anything we need to be successful,” Koren says. “It’s really a family environment, a home away from home.”

Beaver was undecided when he first came to Marietta but chose Biochemistry — and medicine — soon after taking a course from one of the Chemistry faculty.

“Biochemistry is a challenging major, and when you’re taking these classes — I don’t know how to explain it best — but they make learning things like biochemistry and organic chemistry as easy as possibly could be, despite being as difficult as it is. How they do that? I guess one of the things is making you feel so comfortable that you’re never hesitant to ask questions. Their door is always open, and you can always email them. For me to pinpoint ways they make things easier would be impossible.”

Three Biochemistry students — Annie Carpenter ’23, Parker Dinan ’23, and Talitha Hochstetler ’23 — will attend their first-choice Physician Assistant Studies Graduate Program: Marietta College.

“The day before my interview with the PA Program, Dr. Parsons was helping me prepare and walking me through different ways to go through the interview process,” Carpenter says. “Anything you need, they’re ready to help you achieve it. And I know I’ll be ready for PA school because I’ve had so many hard classes that prepare me to work hard. I cannot thank my professors enough.”

Dinan agrees, adding that the dedication it’s going to take to complete his graduate studies was developed as an undergraduate.

“This program is not easy by any means,” Dinan says. “We were tested from the first class we took up to now. Organic chemistry and biochemistry are some crazy classes that really require a lot of work. The program itself has shown us how much work must go into these upper-level classes that I’m going to be taking in this master’s program. Studying 10 hours a day — that kind of work ethic — they’ve taught me how to have it.”

Hochstetler says the confidence that her professors have helped her develop has made all the difference.

“I came here really shy and really nervous, but it’s like a community here and a family environment, for sure,” Hochstetler says. “Even when I’m going through something that’s a more personal matter, the professors have always been here for me, which is really sweet. Dr. Parsons will make you tea and sit with you if you’re struggling. She has been so sweet and kind to me. As a class, we’ve even gone on a little walk before an (Organic Chemistry) exam to chill out and calm down, which helps our nerves before the exam. Have you ever heard of professors doing that? It happens here.”