The primary role of the Biochemistry Peer mentors is to engage our First Year students in our BCHM 1014: First Year Experience in Biochemistry course.  In this course Peer Mentors interact with first year and transfer students, and help to provide support, direction and guidance, as well as demonstrate maturity of judgment, objectivity, integrity, and academic honesty. Peer Mentors assist in the development of skills necessary for mentees to succeed in college, and motivate first year students to achieve academic excellence in one of the toughest majors at Virginia Tech.

The Peer Mentoring program was initiated in the Fall of 2012 by the then instructor of the first Year Experience course, Dr. Glenda Gillaspy. The first  Biochemistry undergraduate students to serve as Peer Mentors have graduated from Virginia Tech. Many have earned advanced degrees and are pursuing a variety of careers including: a PhD scientist working on the epigenome of plants, a PhD scientist working on metabolic engineering of microbes, a PharmD scientist working at Innova Health Systems, a Project Manager at Tecan Labwerx, a PhD scientist working on Protein Engineering at Cellibre, an MD pursuing a medical residency at Tufts, an MD pursuing a residency in Surgery at University of Maryland, and a DMD with a practice in Minneapolis.

Tayah Andrews

Tayah Andrews
tayahaa@vt.edu

I am currently a senior studying Biochemistry with a minor in Chemistry. Upon graduation, I intend to go to graduate school to obtain a Masters of Management in Science and then a Masters of Business Administration. I am the president of Surge Campus Ministries which helps foster a safe community for college students and young professionals to explore the gospel of Jesus Christ. I am also a Howard Hughes Fellow for Diversity and Inclusion at Virginia Tech. My hobbies include singing, napping, cooking, and working out. I have done undergraduate research at Old Dominion University, studying algal blooms in the Lafayette river, and at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, researching neurodegenerative DNA repeat sequences. My favorite course at Virginia Tech so far has been Chemistry 1035! A piece of

advice I would offer is to get involved! There are so many opportunities to make and find your own little niche!

Alisa Bondar

Alisa Bondar 
alisab16@vt.edu

Senior
Biochemistry and Russian majors on pre-med track
Dr. Zhu’s research lab

Favorite class thus far: BCHM 4124 Lab w Dr. Kennelly 

Advice:
Use your resources for additional aid and future recommendations: office hours, e-mails, acquaintances, official websites, etc.

Kaylee Canales

Kaylee Canales
kayleec7@vt.edu

My name is Kaylee Canales, and I am going into my Junior Year of school. My major is Biochemistry, and I am minoring in Leadership and Social Change, Mathematics, and Chemistry.  I just received the SMART scholarship. If you are unfamiliar, it is a program that pays for full tuition, plus extra living expenses if you agree to work for the Department of Defense after you graduate for a certain amount of time, and complete internships over the summers while still in school. So, over my summers, I work at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station for the Corrosion and Wear Branch. I was part of the Leadership and Social Change Residential College, for the past two years of college. 

Kevin Chen

Kevin Chen
ckevin99@vt.edu
Majors: Biochemistry and Biology
Minors: Medicine and Society and History
Undergrad research: Did research under Dr. Capelluto on protein signaling 

Future Plans: Hopefully Medical School with a focus on Radiology

Favorite Class: Definitely Analytical Chemistry with Dr. Geller

Advice: Take everything one step at a time and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. There are so many opportunities and possibilities so be proactive!!

Victoria Filippone

Victoria Filippone
vicky05@vt.edu

Academic year: Senior

Minors: Food Science and Technology; Science Technology and Law

Undergrad research/internships/future plans: Beer brewer professional certificate program (begins in November)

Favorite class at VT: Microbiology lab

Advice: Find your niche outside the classroom!

Maegan Gabby

Maegan Gabby
maegang@vt.edu

Academic Year: Sophomore

Major: Biochemistry

Minor: Spanish, Chemistry

I am involved in undergraduate research at the Jutras Lab researching Lyme Disease. This past summer, I interned at the Federal Food and Drug Administration where I worked on a research project analyzing the evolution of late phase clinical trials for drugs indicated for the prevention and/or treatment for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and postoperative nausea and vomiting that I am working to turn into a publication. Following graduation, I plan to attend medical school and complete and MD/PhD program to work in a clinical setting and utilize my PhD to conduct my own research regarding oncology drug development. I am a member of the Honors College and last year I was part of the CurVinci Living Learning Community (now called Orion). My favorite class so far at VT has been Chem 1035 with Dr. Amateis. My advice to this year’s freshmen is to balance your time and not do too much too fast. Please reach out to me if you have any questions!

Kaitlyn Gallagher

Kaitlyn Gallagher
gkait98@vt.edu

Senior

Double major in Spanish (dual degree)

Study Abroad: Spring 2018 through the Oviedo direct-enroll program

Sustainable Development Research Intern in Riobamba, Ecuador with the Ag Econ Department 

Undergraduate research with Dr. Dean beginning Fall 2019

I've also been working on campus since freshman year and have had 4 jobs on campus: Production Services, Dishwashing in the Food Analysis Laboratory, Biochemistry Peer Mentor, and Lab Assistant for BCHM 4124

Future plans: Grad School in Biochemistry 

Favorite Class at VT so far: BCHM 4115 and SPAN 3464

Advice: Talk to your professors! They are usually pretty funny and always want to help and get to know you.

Amanda Gunzel

Amanda Gunzel
gamanda9@vt.edu

I am a Junior studying Biochemistry.

The past two semesters I have been working in Dr. Biswarup's lab with a focus in microbiology. 

I have been involved in AED, a pre-health honor society, in preparation for a possible future in medicine.

I plan to apply for a master's program in Biochemistry and to continue to explore different careers in the field through internships and shadowing.

My favorite class at VT so far has been Microbiology Lab (has helped with research and very "hands-on").

Advice: Explore the many opportunities you have here and use your resources. Know your end goal but know the small steps to get there along the way and don't lose sight. The most important part is to make sure you are happy with the path you choose to take.

Brenna Hegedus

Brenna Hegedus
brenna2000@vt.edu

My name is Brenna Hegedus. I am a sophomore at Virginia Tech. Not only am I a Biochemistry major, but I am also pursuing a double minor in Chemistry and Philosophy. I am currently serving as a mentor in the Orion Science Living Learning Community. I advise that all first year students become friends with their academic advisors, because they care about your best interests and most of them are pretty cool. At least the ones in the Biochemistry department!

Ian Hicklin

Ian Hicklin
iankh@vt.edu

I am a sophomore, and I want to go into research in biochemistry. My favorite class so far though was RLCL 1014, The Medieval World, which was a super interesting discussions based class about the dark ages. I am a mentor in the Orion living learning community as well as a member of the Honors College. My biggest piece of advice for freshmen, although common, is to not be afraid to ask for help. All of the teachers, and many other students, would be super happy to assist you with whatever you need.

Twyla Lee

Twyla Lee
twyla@vt.edu

Academic year: Senior

Minors: Chinese and Chemistry

Undergraduate Research: Fall 2018-present, under Olsen Lab in the School of Neuroscience

Study Abroad: Summer 2019 for a Language Immersion Program studying Mandarin for 8 weeks in Taiwan 

I was a part of the Integrated Science Curriculum for the full 4 semesters.

Cole Martin

Cole Martin
colem65@vt.edu

I am a Biochemistry major with minors in Chemistry and Psychology. My favorite class at VT so far was Analytical Chemistry with Dr. Geller. I would advise first year students not to be too proud to ask for help with their coursework. There are a plethora of free tutoring options that many students do not take advantage of because they are embarrassed.

 

Astrid Meenan

Astrid Meenan
lastrid1@vt.edu

Hello Everyone! My name is Astrid Meenan, and in addition to Biochemistry, I am also majoring in Biology with a minor in Spanish and Chemistry. My favorite class was Physics with Dr. Kriton, because that class really challenged me and lead me to have a deeper appreciation of the subject. This year I am a TA for Dr. Helm’s 4115 course and I am also the Volunteer Coordinator of FIMRC (Foundation of International Medical Relief for Children). A couple years ago I did undergraduate research in Dr. Gillaspy’s lab as a Fralin Undergraduate Research Fellow where I studied the yielded phenotype of gene knockdown plants. Finally, I was a former member and mentor of the Living Learning Community, Orion. 

Outside of Virginia Tech I was an Atlantis fellow (Summer 2017), where I went to Uruguay for a month and had the amazing opportunity to shadow physicians, go surfing, and learn about their culture. In addition, I had the opportunity to serve as an Innovation Associate in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at Georgetown School of Medicine. 

After I graduate, I plan to become a surgeon and practice in underserved areas in the USA and abroad. If you have any questions or would like to meet me outside of the FYE course, please hit me up at lastrid1@vt.edu. See you around!

Sarah Tartabini

Sarah Tartabini
saraht98@vt.edu

Senior

Biochemistry with Chemistry and Psychology minors

Undergrad research with Bevan/Brown Lab looking at GPCRS and a summer research internship in 2018 with the Lahondere Lab doing fieldwork and mosquito behavior studies.  In summer of 2018, I did a medical outreach trip abroad to Cambodia with Volunteers Around The World.

My future plans include applying to Physician Assistant programs this spring.

My favorite class was BCHM 4115.

Advice: Take advantage of every opportunity on campus, get to know your professors and use office hours, form study groups and find friends who push you to pursue your goals. Get involved on campus and in undergrad research.

Taylan Tunckanat

Taylan Tunckanat
ttunckanat56@vt.edu

Academic Standing: Sophomore

Minor in Chemistry

Research Experience: Fralin SURF 2019 and Fralin 2019-2020 Fellowship, both conducted in Allen Lab
 

Future Plan: Interested in Graduate School

Favorite Class at VT: Phage Hunters BIOL-1135

Advice: It’s never too early to start research

Ryan Walters

Ryan Walters
rmw98@vt.edu

Major: Biochemistry 

Minors: Biology and Medicine & Society

Future Plans: Honestly, I don't know yet. I am considering PA or med school.

Advice: "One Step At A Time" by Jordin Sparks. College is huge and stressful all hitting you at once. It’s overwhelming but everyone is on the same journey. Be yourself and take one step at a time.

Emma Wilkinson

Emma Wilkinson
emwilk@vt.edu

I am a senior double majoring in Biochemistry and Biological Sciences (biomedical concentration) with minors in Business Leadership and Chemistry. After graduation I hope to attend dental school somewhere on the East Coast and am currently in the application process! At school I am involved in the ASDA Pre-Dental Chapter at Virginia Tech where I am serving as Vice President this year. Additionally, I am a member of Delta Epsilon Mu, the Student Alumni Associates of Virginia Tech and also work part-time at the Writing Center. 

My favorite class so far at Virginia Tech has been Dr. Walker's Cancer Biology course. 

My advice to new students is to become involved with different organizations, be kind, and keep an open mind!

Kevin Williams

Kevin Williams
kevinw6@vt.edu

Year: Junior

Minor: Chemistry

Research: Currently part of the Slade Lab, used to work in the Wong lab, Fralin SURF

Future plans: Masters hopefully at Tech and then a PhD

Favorite class: Microbiology lecture

Advice: Don't be afraid to be yourself, and never be afraid to ask for help. Chances are everyone around you needs help just as much.

Honors College, participated in Summer Academy

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Want to meet with a Peer Mentor? Send us an email or contact:

Amy Rasor
Undergraduate Academic Advisor

540-231-8734
arasor@vt.edu


Department of Biochemistry
106 Engel Hall
340 West Campus Drive,
Blacksburg, VA  24061