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Senior Gains Valuable Experience while Studying at COSAM

Published: 04/09/2019

By: Carla Nelson

While finishing her degree through the College of Sciences and Mathematics (COSAM), Auburn University senior Alex Byers is gaining valuable experience.

Alex will soon graduate with a degree in Microbial Cell and Molecular Biology with plans to attend school to become a physician assistant. As a part-time student, she is using her free time wisely by working part-time as a medical assistant and volunteering with a hospice organization.

“A lot of people that want to go into physician assistant school, they’ll have to take one or two gap years in order to get patient care hours, so that’s what I’m working on right now,” Alex said.

Alex is working as a medical assistant for a neurology office and volunteers once per week with the hospice organization.

“You’re really just there to keep the hospice patient company,” Alex said of the hospice work. “Also if they have a caretaker, you keep them company as well. The patient I see is not coherent, so I’m mostly there for the caretaker. I knew the patients were terminal, so I wasn’t surprised at their condition. But I’m not used to interacting with a patient that’s not able to interact back, so that’s been a learning experience for me.”

Originally from Sarasota, Florida, Alex said she chose to attend school at Auburn because she wanted a different experience from the private Catholic high school from which she graduated.

“I wanted to leave the state, but I didn’t know where to begin so coming to Auburn was a random decision,” Alex said. “But I loved it when I visited.”

During her time at Auburn, Alex has gained research experience from working in Dr. Rita Graze’s lab in the Biological Sciences Department. Although it was a valuable experience, it helped Alex decide that he didn’t want a career centered around research.

“I’m a very big people person and I learned that from the internship I did in Dr. Graze’s lab that I don’t think that I’d be able to be in a lab and look at a computer all day,” she said. “I’d like to go to physician assistant school and hopefully work with either an emergency department or with infectious diseases and maybe travel internationally with that.”

Alex said she feels lucky to be graduating as a COSAM student.

“When I talk to other students at other schools in their math and science departments, it made me realize how in-depth and connected that Auburn students are with COSAM,” she said. “I think we are able to rely on COSAM a lot for help, which I think is extremely important.”

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