Rebecca Wyma (Class of 2018)

  • senior Microbiology major, with a Premedical Studies co-major
  • minor in Neuroscience
  • from Evergreen Park, IL
  • shadowed an obstetrics & gynecology specialist during her Mallory-Wilson Center preceptorship (January 2017)
  • recipient of the Howard Hughes Summer Internship to conduct microbiology research (Summer 2017)
  • Supplemental Instruction (SI) leader and member of Miami MED
College can be a confusing time as there's always so much to do, but keeping your focus on a few things that you're interested in should help. And if you have a true passion for something or you really want to learn more about a specific topic, don't be afraid to ask questions. This has really helped me come a long way."

Why Miami?

"When I was applying to colleges, I wanted to branch out and learn to be more independent. The best way to do that, I felt, was to get out on my own at an out-of-state school. I knew I was interested in the sciences, so I asked my high school's science division chair then what out-of-state schools were best for me to further my education in the field. She recommended Miami. I visited and immediately fell in love with the campus.

"Beyond the physical appeal, I liked Miami's approach to education. I was greeted on my first visit with a panel of professors who expressed genuine interest in their students. This was different than any other college visit I experienced so far where I only met and spoke to students. It was because of this that I realized Miami education was unique. And the uniqueness continued into my choice of major. Microbiology was something I had never seen when applying to many Midwest colleges. In that time, I had developed an interest in becoming a physician and realized how substantially Miami's Microbiology major and supportive staff would help me to achieve this career goal.

"Miami gave me all kinds of new experiences as soon as I arrived. Being on my own here, however, meant facing many challenges on my own, too. And at the beginning, this was adjusting to my academics. My first biology class (BIO 115) was a really great introduction to my major, but also extremely difficult for me. I struggled to understand the material so much back then that I worried that I wasn't cut out for a science major. But looking back, I'm so grateful for that class. It taught me how to study which has allowed me to teach other students how to study for it as a current supplementary instructor (SI) for the class. Miami shaped me into a successful student as well as a successful teacher.

"In addition to its scholastic impact, I have enjoyed many other activities at Miami. This includes working at B.E.S.T. [Business, Engineering, Science and Technology] library, joining both a service fraternity and a medical education club, and taking part in research. Even as busy as I am with all these activities, I still manage to find more opportunities offered at Miami because of how dedicated the school is to student education and experience. A recent opportunity of mine was a preceptorship through their Mallory-Wilson Center for Healthcare Education (MWCHE) that allowed me to shadow a physician."

Best Miami Experiences

Dr. Mitch Balish's Lab poses in 2017 (Rebecca Wyma on right).

"Research is one of the favorite things I've taken part in at Miami so far. At first, I got involved in it as a way to decide whether I wanted to continue research in graduate school or just attend medical school. But I found out that I ended up enjoying research alongside a medical route because both focused on a process that I liked: discovering. Receiving the Howard Hughes Summer Internship last summer and the Undergraduate Research Award this spring has allowed me to spend more time in the lab to learn more about myself and what I like to do. Currently, I have interests in being involved in a career that combines both medicine and research.

"Dr. Mitch Balish, a professor of microbiology and my research mentor, has been really great throughout my research experience. He has helped me to find excitement in research even through failing experiments and inconclusive results. He's also been so supportive and encouraging throughout my time knowing him that I'm not afraid to go to him about anything making my involvement with him and his research an even bigger impact on my life.

"My MWCHE preceptorship was also the most in-depth physician shadowing experience that I've ever had thanks to Miami. Over the course of 5 days I shadowed Dr. Paul Gehring, an obstetrics and gynecology specialist in Tulsa, Oklahoma and a Miami alum. I stayed with him and his family, which was really incredible because I got to see how he manages his work and personal life. This made me see the real life of a physician and portrayed a lifestyle that I could one day see myself potentially having as well.

"My jobs at Miami have been wonderful experiences too. Working as both a Student Worker/Supervisor at B.E.S.T. library and an SI leader has not only helped me to pay for school, but has allowed me to interact and cooperate with faculty and students all over campus. With both opportunities, I have grown my interpersonal and leadership skills. Overall, every aspect of my time at Miami has provided something different for me and that is something I think has been the best to get out of my time here."

Miami and the Liberal Arts

Researchers (L to R) Neena Patel, Dr. Mitch Balish, and Rebecca Wyma pose in front of their poster at the 2015 Undergraduate Research Forum.

"Diving into the different classes Miami has to offer has allowed me to master a number of subjects. Microbiology courses came with my major, but caught me off guard with their range of subject matter. I never before knew how intertwined the world was with microbes. But now as a senior approaching graduation, I know so much about these little organisms that I feel as though I could apply the information anywhere I go in life whether that is in the medical field or just more broadly into my daily living.

"I've also been able to take part in the Italian language courses here. At first a decision I made to fill my foreign language requirement, learning Italian has become a beneficial skill to me all on its own. I not only gained insight into Italian culture through its study, but it has also encouraged me to study abroad in Italy this past J-Term too. One of my Italian professors, Dr. Daniele Fioretti, helped me to set up this trip and discover that Italy is really a place of culture that I could see myself integrating into. I hope to one day find myself in the country again and I would have never pictured this if it were not for taking these Italian classes.

"Courses I eventually added to my Miami experience were in neuroscience. I loved learning about the brain in a psychology course I took in high school, so I went ahead a picked up a minor in this area to continue to learn more about it. Over the years, I have taken courses in bio-psychology, cognitive neuroscience, psychopharmacology, and neuroanatomy that have only added to my knowledge of human brain functionality. It has become a topic I have really enjoyed over the years and loved when it crossed over with my other interests such as mircobiology."

Shadowing a Physician and Witnessing Live Births

Rebecca discusses her January 2017 Mallory-Wilson Center preceptorship, where she shadowed a gynecologist and an obstetrics specialist.

Shadowing a Physician Video Transcript

Advice to Students

"I believe that students should experience all there is to offer with Miami's liberal arts education. There are so many different areas of study that I was able to find a few worthwhile courses outside my major of study while here. This is how I got unexpectedly interested in Italian, and how others can find their passions in different subject matter as well.

"When it comes to any opportunities being offered by the university — internships, scholarships, faculty research projects, etc. — I highly suggest always going for it. I had to apply for my MWCHE preceptorship twice before I could be matched, but I would have regretted it if I had never applied. There aren't always enough openings for these opportunities, so sometimes it's a matter of luck if you get something or not. But acting early always helps. For example, the reason I was able to find a good research project in my lab was because I began searching for a lab the summer before my sophomore year by emailing professors, looking at what they did, and discovering how their research aligned with my interests. When Dr. Balish offered me a spot, it happened to be a time when a senior student was leaving the lab. Fortunately, luck was on my side, but if I didn't go for it as early as I did someone else could have ended up with my project.

"College can be a confusing time as there's always so much to do, but keeping your focus on a few things that you're interested in should help. And if you have a true passion for something or you really want to learn more about a specific topic, don't be afraid to ask questions. This has really helped me come a long way."

[March 2018]