New Chemistry Building is Enhances Catalyzes Opportunities for Future Students

The 2021 school year brought what Old Dominion University students would consider to be a “new normal”, with the previous semesters being completely virtual. However, walking back onto campus this semester brought a new building for the chemistry department, which brings an array of new opportunities for the students to come. This new building was part of a $213 million investment in STEM-H buildings on campus. A building like this was deemed necessary by then President Broderick for ODU’s student body, based on the percentage of students pursuing a degree that would lead them into a medical or technical research profession. 


One student in particular took advantage of the partnership between ODU and Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) to admit qualified students into medical school. This allows for a bypass of the traditional application process. Regan Allen, a senior at ODU, sat down to talk about her experiences and the excitement she has for the new addition to the Chemistry department. Allen is a Hampton Roads native who graduated from Nansemond River High School in Suffolk, Virginia. Throughout her four years at ODU, she has exemplified extraordinary use of her time, even with such a rigorous course load each semester. Some examples include her volunteer leadership as a Young Life leader and working at Wagner Macula & Retina Center. 


What is your major and graduation year?

I am a biochemistry major with a minor in psychology, and I am graduating in 2022!


What is the program that you participated in at ODU for your early acceptance to EVMS?


I applied to the joint program that partners Old Dominion University with Eastern Virginia Medical School. A student accepted into the ODU/EVMS Joint Program in Medicine will be guaranteed a position at Eastern Virginia Medical School upon graduation from Old Dominion University. This program is designed for qualified students to circumvent the traditional application process to medical school. 


How has ODU and the chemistry department prepared you for your early acceptance to EVMS?

The ODU chemistry department has provided me with research opportunities and resources to succeed academically. I was fortunate enough to develop professional relationships with some of the staff within the department. Due to the kind and welcoming staff of the chemistry department, I was always accepted into research labs, even as a freshman. I believe that these connections aided in my acceptance into the early admission program. The courses I’ve taken have also prepared me well for the next step in my education. The chemistry courses that I have taken have been challenging in a way that has encouraged me to grow as a student.


What is your favorite memory or most memorable experience as a biochemistry student?


My most memorable experience as a biochemistry student was presenting my poster presentation at the Perry Honors College Undergraduate Research Symposium. This memory is so significant to me because it was the catalyst of my love for science. I knew that I wanted to be a biochemistry student, but getting the opportunity to present my research solidified my desire to pursue a career in medicine. Outside of my academic experiences, my favorite memories as an ODU student are the athletic events


Why did you decide to study biochemistry specifically and not just chemistry? 


I chose to study biochemistry because of the practical applications for my career choice. While chemistry is equally [as] interesting, I want to go to medical school which requires a solid foundation in biology. I chose biochemistry to better prepare myself for graduate school. 


How has the chemistry department provided an environment for your individual learning and research?

The chemistry department provides undergraduate students with opportunities to pursue research and work closely with graduate students and principal investigators. In my experience with the chemistry department, I’ve had ample access to academic resources to help with my courses. My research experiences were hands on, and I attribute the helpful nature of the faculty to my success thus far. In the labs that I have researched in, it felt like the faculty valued my input and my development as a student. 


Could you describe your inspiration to pursue a medical career?

I’ve always known that I wanted to pursue a career centered around helping others. This passion, combined with my love and curiosity for science, has encouraged me to seek out a career as a physician. I enjoy being challenged academically, which suits the field of medicine well. I have been inspired by other amazing health care providers that have pushed me to want to become a doctor. I hope to one day become the type of physician who advocates for equal access and quality care for all patients. 


Has ODU’s Chemistry department created any new inspirations for your continuing education? 


The faculty and staff in the chemistry department have inspired me through their rigorous research and pursuit of quality education. Some of my professors have been so encouraging and excited for me to learn, which has given me the self confidence to continue my education. In addition to my professors, my peers have helped me tremendously throughout my time at ODU. 


How does it make you feel that the university is committed to cultivating an environment by renovating the chemistry building for future chem students? 


The new chemistry building reflects ODU’s passion to educate future professionals in STEM. It is encouraging to know that ODU values the chemistry department and its contributions to the university. By providing a new, state of the art learning space, ODU is giving students the resources they need to succeed. 


How has your undergraduate research experience better prepared you for your medical career? 


My undergraduate research experience has made me a more resourceful and independent student. Doing research taught me how to find information and teach myself complex content on my own. Research has also taught me how to be self-disciplined. The research environment isn’t as structured, and I learned how to pace myself to meet deadlines. Overall, my undergraduate research experience has made me more self-sufficient. Knowing how to find information on your own while also knowing when to ask for help is an important attribute of a future physician. 


If you could give any advice to a younger student who would also like to follow your steps in your educational journey, what would that be? 


I would tell younger students to pursue every opportunity they’re given. Even if it feels silly or useless, you can learn something new from every experience. Don’t be afraid to go out of your comfort zone either. It can be intimidating to put yourself out there and ask for new opportunities. I would encourage students to be persistent in pursuing experiences in research despite feeling discouraged sometimes. Most importantly, enjoy your experience and have fun.