Why I chose Armstrong: I thought it was the best school in the area for what I was doing. It’s also reasonably inexpensive and they had classes that worked with my work schedule.
What I love about Armstrong: I love pretty much everything. This blows my first college experience out of the water. I got to do nanoparticle research, which is really cutting edge research, as a sophomore. I don’t think I could have gotten that anywhere else.
Best Advice: Especially to students who are taking a nontraditional path, I would say listen to your heart. Listen to your own instincts and don’t doubt yourself. Just go for it.
In April, Elizabeth Bates received the 2011 Biology Faculty Special Recognition Award for her work in bridging the sciences while serving as president of Armstrong’s Biology club.
“As a chemistry major, I like to foster cooperation within the disciplines. They are so related. For instance, you use chemistry in biology and molecular biology is chemistry, and so bringing those things together is really important for me. We’re trying to break those borders,” Bates said.
Interested to see what the club had to offer, Bates attended a meeting and eventually joined, and although a chemistry major, she soon became the biology club’s vice-president in 2009 and president in 2010.
Apart from leading the growing biology club, which now has more than 140 members, Bates served as a mentor to fellow students by helping them break down walls of self-doubt, something she had to overcome while in the chemistry program.
“I had a high school teacher who told me I could never do chemistry. She told me that I would not succeed in the sciences,” Bates said. ”So that and the fact that I actually could excel in science made me want to help others see their own potential.”
Due to this wall, Bates did not start her college career donning a lab coat and safety goggles, but instead turned to literature. The Vienna, Va. native studied English at the College of William and Mary and received her bachelor’s degree in 2004. During this time, Bates became heavily involved with volunteer work. She participated with AmericCorps in bringing disaster relief to victims of 9/11 in New York City, and then to victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. After the hurricane, Bates traveled to Gulfport, Miss. where she worked with emergency response vehicles to bring food and supplies to those in need. The experience prompted Bates’ first forays into the medical and scientific fields, as the desire to directly help those in need increased.
After moving to Savannah in 2005, Bates decided that pursuing medicine was the best way to give that direct help. She obtained her emergency medical technician certification from Savannah Technical College in 2007. However, Bates found that her appetite for learning was not yet satisfied. She enrolled at Armstrong in 2008 in order to take pre-requisite courses for medical school, focusing on biochemistry.
Bates continued to build bridges between disciples while at Armstrong. She found that she could combine her love for English with her love for science. “As an English major in the chemistry department, people think it’s weird, and it is, let’s be real, but you do a lot of writing for science. With my background, I actually have an advantage as far as communication goes. It’s been an interesting integration of the two fields,” Bates said.
Bates is currently preparing for her departure from Savannah’s warm climate. In August, she will attend the Thomas Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, Penn., to pursue her doctorate degree. Like she has always done, Bates’ goal after graduation is to combine a variety of passions. She hopes to one day provide international aid, foster youth connections, and to work in non-profit areas that promote environmental sustainability. “Exactly what shape that is going to take, I’m not going to presume to know,” Bates said. “If you told me four years ago that I’d be going to medical school in August, I would not have believed you.”