"I've always been fascinated by nature, and to me, the sciences of biology and chemistry provide the best gateway to understanding what makes life so remarkable," says Randolph-Macon College student David Gibson '17. "This ongoing process of discovery drives me and is very fulfilling."
This fall, Gibson, a biology major and chemistry minor, will continue his quest for discovery when he enters Virginia Commonwealth School of Medicine (VCU) in conjunction with the Preferred Applicant Agreement between VCU and R-MC. This agreement enables qualified
R-MC students who demonstrate a strong overall and science GPA to enter VCU's School of Medicine.
Getting The Edge
Josh Quinn, the associate director of professional development and medical careers for The Edge, R-MC's four-year career program, has helped Gibson prepare for the rigors of medical school in numerous ways.
"He offered me advice on which courses to take at R-MC, told me about shadowing opportunities, explained the medical school application process, and helped me improve my interview skills. He even drove me to my first interview at VCU! He also organizes R-MC's annual Health Careers Day, where I've met inspirational Yellow Jackets who have careers in medicine," says Gibson, a Presidential Scholarship recipient. Two especially inspirational alumni—Dr. Stephen Long '82 and Dr. David Young '58—have supported Gibson's path to a medical career by providing him with shadowing experiences, writing letters of recommendation, and keeping in touch with him throughout his college career.
Exploration + Mentorship
Thanks to dedication and hard work, Gibson's life at R-MC has been filled with exploration and hands-on training.
"I shadowed physicians, participated in an internship at a proton therapy center, and became a certified EMT," he explains. "These experiences enhanced my desire to become a physician."
Gibson also honed his skills through a two-semester honors research course. Working alongside his advisor and mentor, Biology Professor Melanie Gubbels Bupp, he explored T cell immunity.
"Doing research gave me a deeper understanding of the scientific process,” he says, "and Professor Gubbels Bupp's mentorship was collaborative. She and her research students are equally important members of the team."
"David is an excellent writer and has a great capacity to read and understand complex and technical journal articles," says Gubbels Bupp. "These talents contributed greatly to his successes is my lab. For example, he co-authored a chapter for a technical handbook, Conn's Handbook of Models for Human Aging. In addition, he piloted experiments to determine if malnutrition slows the migration speeds of immune cells. Both projects were rigorous and time-intensive, and David did a fantastic job with each of them."
Beyond the Classroom
Gibson gained a global perspective when he participated in R-MC's unique study-abroad program, jetting to Australia and New Zealand during January Term (J-term) 2017 in conjunction with The Chemistry of Winemaking, taught by Chemistry Professor Serge Schreiner.
"It was a great opportunity to take a science course in a unique environment while exploring the world and bonding with professors and classmates," says Gibson. "We learned about the grape plant, visited the departments of enology and viticulture at several research universities, and visited wine laboratories. It was a terrific way to mesh what we'd learned in the classroom with hands-on exploration."
R-MC offers students a wide variety of ways to get involved on campus, and Gibson has taken advantage of many of them.
He is a member of the Honors program, Pre-Health Society, Phi Beta Kappa Zeta chapter, Beta Beta Beta, Chi Beta Phi, Omicron Delta Kappa, R-MC's chapter of Ducks Unlimited, and Eta Sigma Phi. In addition, he serves as a writing tutor in the Higgins Academic Center.
"The best thing about being a Yellow Jacket is having a college experience in which you develop lasting relationships with professors, alumni and fellow students," says Gibson, whose cousin is Charles Layne, a member of the Class of 1952. "My professors have not only taught me, but they have also instilled confidence in me. And the friends I made at R-MC have made the entire experience fun."
Gibson has good advice for new Yellow Jackets.
"Build relationships, take advantage of the many available resources at R-MC, and treasure your time at Randolph-Macon," he says. "Those four years go by quickly. Life at R-MC gave me the confidence to pursue my dreams and strengthened my desire to continue learning. I'm excited about medical school, and I will always be grateful for my experiences at R-MC."