By: Maddie Panyard ’21
We have amazing students at the University of Vermont who get involved in wonderful organizations. This week, we’d like to introduce you to Sydney Caldwell, a junior molecular genetics major with a Spanish minor. She is passionate about the research and clubs she has found at UVM.
Sydney has always been interested in the world of medicine. In the past, she has toyed with whether to pursue a PhD, MD, or combined MD/PhD degree. With over 6 years of research experience, a PhD may seem liked the logical choice, but after doing clinical shadowing, Sydney realized that she loves patient interactions. Regardless of whether she goes on to obtain an MD or MD/PhD, she wants a career in which she an care for patients while also continuing research of her own. Sydney plans to wait a year after graduating UVM to apply to medical school but is hoping that during that year off she can spend time in a Spanish speaking country to continue to improve her ability to communicate in Spanish.
Her Research Experience:
Sydney started doing cancer research in high school at Stony Brook University near her home on Long Island, and also was able to spend a short period of time doing research at UC Davis. Her research involved the study of the spice, turmeric, specifically a component known as curcumin, as a potential therapeutic for cancer.
Once at UVM, Sydney did not let her passion for research die. She met with her advisor during the first month of school and found out about a professor that was doing immunology research. Using her advisor’s connection, she sent out an email to the professor expressing her interest in his lab. The professor responded, and she met with him in person to discuss her passion for research. By October, she was actively involved in the professor’s research lab learning all about immunology and obesity. As a junior, she is still working in this research lab, spending approximately 9-10 hours a week there doing experiments that focus on the effects of a long non-coding RNA in immune cells and obesity.
Sydney is co-president of UVM’s club MedVida. MedVida is UVM’s chapter of the national organization MEDLIFE. MEDLIFE is a non-profit organization that seeks to provide medicine, education, and development to people living in rural areas of Ecuador, Peru, Nicaragua, and Tanzania where access to care is extremely limited. Students involved in MEDLIFE help provide short term relief during one to two weeklong trips by setting up health clinics in rural villages.
In May of 2019, Sydney and other club members traveled to Peru to assist doctors for 10 days. Sydney appreciated the opportunity to learn firsthand about the importance of public health while interacting with others from a cultural experience different from her own. Generally, the Peru trip happens every year. However, with COVID this fall, MedVida is holding a virtual trip in December. This virtual trip will occur over a week and feature interviews with patients and doctors. Throughout the week, there will be a mix of live and pre-recorded sessions.
Interested in getting involved in MedVida?
MedVida is still holding weekly in-person meetings, despite COVID. The meetings happen every Tuesday at 6 pm. To get more information, send an email to one of the co-Presidents (Samantha.Beaudette@uvm.edu and Sydney.Caldwell@uvm.edu) Other Involvement:
Sydney is an active member in the UVM and Burlington community. Besides MedVida, she also is the UVM Club Gymnastics President and a volunteer for Red Cross. Pre-COVID, she spent time shadowing doctors at the UVM Medical Center. She achieved her shadowing hours by going to the UVM Medical Center’s webpage and emailing doctors from departments of interest to her. She did not hear back from some, but others responded. Specifically, Sydney had the opportunity to shadow an orthopedic surgeon. She was able to spend 10 hours in the OR observing a surgery and found it fascinating.
Advice for Peer Undergraduates:
Sydney’s advice for her peers is to recognize the importance of connections. Whether these connections are with your professors, advisors, or peers, they will help you significantly further your career. Speaking from her experiences, Sydney says without connections, she would not be in her research lab nor would she have been able to obtain shadowing experience. All it takes is some simple, professional emails or conversations to find a path to a new and rewarding experience. Sydney also warns her peers not to lose hope if you do not hear back from a connection. There may be lots of rejections or lack of responses at first, but “everything works out for a reason and you will find yourself exactly where you need to be.”