COSAM » News » Articles » 2016 » June » Meet COSAM’s Graduation Marshals for the 2015-2016 academic year, Austin Bush and Taylor Young

Meet COSAM’s Graduation Marshals for the 2015-2016 academic year, Austin Bush and Taylor Young

Published: 06/08/2016

By: Candis Birchfield , Lindsay Miles

Video by: Phillip Coxwell

Meet COSAM’s Graduation Marshals for the 2015-2016 academic year, Austin Bush and Taylor Young

Austin Bush and Taylor Young represented the College of Sciences and Mathematics at the fall 2015 and spring 2016 commencement ceremonies, respectively. Student marshals are selected by an awards committee from each college. To be considered, students must have completed a minimum of four semesters at Auburn University with a scholastic average of 3.40 (graduating Cum Laude) or higher and possess qualities of leadership, citizenship, character and promise of professional ability.

Austin Bush finds career path on an unexpected academic journey

Austin Bush, geography ’15, had set out to become a dentist when he began his academic journey at Auburn University.

“When I finished up with high school, I looked at a handful of different colleges, but really liked the ‘family’ feel of Auburn,” said Bush, a Hunstville, Alabama, native. “My first year at Auburn, I was a pre-dental student. When I got into my first year of basic chemistry and biology classes, I quickly realized that I did not like dentistry or medicine, for that matter.”

Bush temporarily changed his major to business until he found what he was truly passionate about, geography.

After taking a global geography course on a whim, he found the material fascinating and began to talk with a professor about changing his major. Two weeks later, he was an official geography major in the Department of Geosciences.

“For the first semester or two, I took classes and got to know my professor at the time, Dr. Yingru Li,” said Bush. “As I started to meet with her more to talk about class topics or geography as a discipline, she made the offer for me to work with her on a research project. The research involved socioeconomic issues in impoverished counties in Alabama.”

As a part of the research, Bush went to elementary schools around the state conducting surveys and studying the human and cultural aspects of geography such as income and cultural inequalities.

“That gave me my first experience with doing research, and I really got hooked on geography as a discipline,” said Bush. “Dr. Li was really the reason why I went into geography and got involved in the research aspect of it. Shortly after, Dr. Li left the university, and I began working with Chandana Mitra.”

Mitra, an assistant professor in the Department of Geosciences, assigned Bush a project for the semester during her climatology class.

“Dr. Mitra wanted a graduate student, a Ph.D. student, and me, to put our heads together and work on a project that would be paper worthy,” said Bush. “We ended up deciding to look at the urban heat island effect that is present in Auburn, meaning the inner city with more concrete and asphalt is typically a lot warmer than rural areas. One of Dr. Mitra’s former students actually did his thesis regarding the urban heat island effect in Auburn, so Dr. Mitra wanted us to continue on with that and see what else we could get out of that concept.”

Bush and his team placed temperature-recording devices that logged information such as precipitation and humidity in various locations throughout Auburn and Opelika. After two weeks, the team looked at the data and compared their findings to what is already known about the urban heat island effect.

“The results we got back were significant enough to show that there is an urban heat island effect present, however, you can’t directly compare against two different cities,” said Bush.

Bush is currently continuing his research with Mitra as a graduate student in the Department of Geosciences, and encourages students of all majors to work with a professor and get involved in an area of research.

“Research is a great way to really find out what your discipline is all about, and is a great experience to have whether you pursue it or not,” said Bush. “It’s definitely a great experience for all students to have, regardless of your major.” 

When asked what tips he would give to other students, Bush says the two key components of a successful academic career are getting enough sleep and getting to know your instructors.

“Getting to know your professors is very important,” said Bush. “That’s one of the main reasons why I chose to continue with my master’s here at Auburn. As an undergraduate student, I formed relationships with my professors, and now going into graduate school, I can continue to build upon those relationships and develop a strong professional network, and a social network, too. I feel like a lot of my professors are my friends.”

Bush’s grandfather, an Auburn graduate, was in attendance for the fall 2015 graduation ceremony where Bush was the COSAM graduation marshal.

“My entire family was elated when they found out I was the graduation marshal for the college, but it really meant the world to my grandfather,” said Bush. “I think it meant the most to him out of everyone in my family. It was a huge honor to be selected.”

Taylor Young: inspired by hope, guided by research and faculty mentors 

Taylor Young, biomedical sciences ’16, always knew he wanted to be a doctor. His time spent volunteering at the Cancer Center of East Alabama, researching drug discovery in the lab and working with the College of Sciences and Mathematics faculty and staff solidified his decision.

“Around my freshman or sophomore year of high school, I began to decide what I wanted to do for my future career,” said Young, an Auburn native. “I’d never considered the option of medicine until I began shadowing a family friend and going to the hospital with him. I was able to shadow surgeries and procedures, and it immediately clicked for me. I loved it and continued to pursue it, opening the door for more opportunities to learn.”

After graduating from high school, Young became a volunteer at the Cancer Center of East Alabama, which he continued for three years.

“I worked in the infusion room alongside three or four nurses, and I was able to care for the patients who were receiving chemotherapy or radiation treatments,” said Young. “To be able to get on a personal level with each of those patients and have heart to heart conversations about what they’re going through really gives you a different perspective on life. They’re battling cancer, but their spirits are high. It makes me want to keep my spirits high and work harder each day. My time there really directed my interests toward becoming an oncologist.”

During his sophomore year, Young began researching with Professor Rajesh Amin in the Harrison School of Pharmacy’s Department of Drug Discovery and Development. Their project examines if having diabetes puts a person at a higher risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease.

“Working with the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, we’ve developed drugs that have been tested on cell lines and mice models that have pre-developed diabetes,” said Young. “We’ve had some really amazing findings, and I hope the study will continue even after I graduate.”

His undergraduate experience does not stop there – as a part of COSAM’s Pre-Medical Preceptorship, Young had the opportunity to shadow eight different physicians in one semester from all areas of medicine.

He has received numerous awards and honors, and held many different leadership roles while at Auburn including his current role of president of COSAM Leaders, a group of COSAM juniors and seniors who serve as the official student ambassadors of the college.

“I was really involved as much as I could be during my first two years at Auburn, and as I started my junior year, I knew COSAM was where I would graduate, and I wanted to do something that would benefit the college, so I sought out the COSAM Leaders,” said Young. “I was an ambassador at my high school and really enjoyed it, so I did some research, applied and became a COSAM Leader. The experience has been amazing. I’ve had the chance to work alongside faculty and staff within the college and build relationships with many different people. Not only do I work within COSAM, but outside the college as well, giving information to perspective students and meeting alumni at different events. It has been so much fun.”

When asked what faculty member has impacted him the most while at Auburn, Young says Jack Feminella, associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Sciences and Mathematics, has greatly influenced his life.

“Dr. Feminella had a big impact on me,” said Young. “Since this was his first year serving as advisor for the COSAM Leaders, I was able to work with him throughout last summer. He was able to show me some ropes, and I was able to show him some of the things that we do as leaders. Coming in this year as president of COSAM Leaders, my mindset was to grow our group as much as possible. As I expressed my ideas, Dr. Feminella not only agreed with me, but he’d also throw ideas back at me that were better than mine. To be able to work with him like that has really affected me.”

When told he would be representing the college at spring commencement, Young was “blown away.”

“I’m so honored to be picked for this spot, and it makes me feel like I’ve actually done some good here in COSAM during my four years.”

Young will begin medical school at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine this fall. 

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