By Mariam Ayyash and Amal Algahmi, University of Michigan- Dearborn
It’s strange to think that it was only a month ago that I took my last steps across the stage as a University of Michigan-Dearborn (UMD) undergraduate. Who knew that just turning a tassel can be so life-changing? While I can still visit the campus, it won’t offer the same sanctuary, it won’t be the same home that sheltered me and raised me for the past three years. Looking back, I’m glad I took advantage of all that UMD had to offer and am proud to call UMD my family.
As science major, I know that learning extends beyond the lecture setting and I’ve come to appreciate the opportunities I’ve been granted as a student at UMD. During my first year on campus, I got a job at the Chemistry Dispensary, which is responsible for not only all of the chemistry labs, but physics, geology, and the natural sciences as well. It’s pretty cool to prepare labs that you have already taken and interact with faculty on a different level. Whereas I had previously relied on my instructors to help me in my labs, the roles reversed and they came to me for help and assistance in their labs. While the work itself was valuable in its own right, I got the chance to build relationships with faculty and staff that I wouldn’t have had otherwise and that has made a huge impact on my life as a student.
One of the great things about UMD is that our campus is so small you’re bound to meet a good number of people and will almost never walk down a hallway without seeing someone you know. The Supplemental Instruction (SI) program allows you to meet even more of them. The SI is a student-led group study where the student leader is someone who has done well in the course and who wants to help students currently enrolled to excel. I was an SI leader for two semesters, for physics and chemistry, but I think the record was set by my co-blogger Amal who did SI for ten semesters! Amal was a great SI leader and the number of people who attend her sessions are more than enough to attest to her skills. I’m sure many campuses offer similar programs like the SI that gives students the chance to help each other study in an organized manner. It’s up to students to take advantage of these opportunities or to create them if they don’t exist.
Student run organizations or programs such as the SI offer fun and camaraderie through shared learning experiences with peers. The wide-range of opportunities offered through our student organizations at UMD is unbelievable! I’m sure that many other schools are similar in that respect. How else can one get the chance to meet great speakers or former graduate students, enjoy graduate school panels, scientific trivia, volunteer opportunities, fundraisers, experiment days, and social events? Being involved in on campus student organizations has had a great impact my undergraduate career. It has certainly made my undergraduate studies enjoyable and exciting! If you’re just starting your undergraduate career, or even if you’re half-way through your schooling, consider becoming part of your student organizations. This past year, I had the honor of leading our Biochemistry Society (UAN) with Amal and some friends. We turned it into a start organization within our department with multiple events and activities throughout the year. The experience was both fulfilling and inspiring. I know that I am now more determined to incorporate biochemistry into my career path.
Aside from student run organizations, my most valued experience at UMD is research. I know many students at UMD and elsewhere feel the same way. There are the biology majors that hunt for spiders and study all kinds of plants, the physics kids fiddle with lasers and telescopes, the chemistry people make lots of fumes and reactions and we play around with pathogenic yeast. We’ve all spent countless weekends and holidays pursuing our research and planning the next experiment. I’ve had opportunities to present my research at campus-wide research showcases, at Meeting of Minds hosted by UMD, UM-Flint, and Oakland University and at the ACS National Conference this spring in New Orleans. Also this spring, Amal and I had the opportunity to visit Boston for the ASBMB Annual Meeting along with two other friends from our department. Opportunities like these are not easy to come by, but they make for life-long memories.
I hope that your school offers the same number of opportunities for student engagement and learning as UMD does. If not, it might be an opportunity for you and your friends to make things happen. It’s not always about taking advantage of existing opportunities. Sometimes it’s doing what no one else has done that really impacts your life. Whether it’s research, tutoring or any other activity, make the most of it and just have a good time.