A day-in-the-life of Gettysburg College STEM students

Have you ever wondered what a typical day for a college student looks like? How about a student interested in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)?

Meet Ricardo Miranda ’21, Rouwaida Nitiema ’21 and Claire Woodward ’20, three Gettysburg students who conduct research with professionals in the science field, balance labs, courses, and extracurricular activities, and pursue their passions in a liberal arts and sciences setting.

All three are becoming equipped for lives in the science and mathematics fields. Through offerings at Gettysburg College, they are also able to engage in other academic interests, from German studies to music, while getting involved in campus activities.

Follow along to see firsthand how they spend their days at Gettysburg.

How mathematics major Ricardo Miranda ’21 keeps his mind and body fit

“I energize myself first thing in the morning with a pre-workout energy supplement before heading to the gym. As a strength and conditioning intern for Gettysburg College athletes, I try my best to work on my own technique for the compound lifts during my morning workouts in order to set an example to others of what proper form looks like. For our athletes, I hope to reduce the chance of injuries due to poor technique. I am working toward competing in powerlifting this upcoming summer, so I have to stay on top of my own training in addition to guiding others. Some mornings, I assist coaches with speed, power, agility, reaction and quickness (SPARQ) training for athletes in their offseason before starting my own workout.

“I recently co-founded and serve as the co-president of the Gettysburg College Lifting Club with Thomas R. Ramsey ’22 to promote health and fitness at the College and guide students who would like to introduce lifting into their lives.

Ricardo Miranda '21

“My morning routine is topped off with breakfast at Servo, where I typically eat an omelet, fruit, and yogurt to bolster my energy for the rest of the day. Next, I have to head to my first class of the day.

“My courseload this semester consists of computational physics, math, and other STEM courses that contribute to my mathematics major and physics and computer science double minor. I spend ample time during the day either in the library, the Junction, or attending office hours for these classes to stay on top of the demands of the courses. I am a STEM Scholar from San Jose, Calif., so I feel fortunate for the academic and financial opportunities offered that allowed me the chance to travel across the country for my undergraduate studies.

“Once classes end for the day, my evening activities may vary. I’m on the Honor Commission, for instance, which holds meetings and occasional hearings.

“Although my robust schedule can be taxing, I value maintaining a healthy lifestyle to perform the best I can, whether that be in academics or powerlifting training.”

– Ricardo Miranda ’21 of San Jose, Calif.

Aspiring medical student Rouwaida Nitiema ’21 masters biology and music

“Mornings are typically filled with classes, from statistics to chemistry and vertebrate zoology. I enjoy Gettysburg’s academic opportunities that allowed me to pursue STEM after moving to the United States from Nigeria. I’m a biology major with a chemistry minor, so many of my courses are science-oriented to best prepare me for a future in the medical field.

“I take a break from flexing my STEM-oriented mind with artistic expression. I assist Sunderman Conservatory of Music Prof. César Leal as a peer learning associate (PLA) for the Music 102 lecture. This position enables me to interact with students by facilitating discussions. Although I do not study an instrument, I’ve been inspired to learn to play the violin after learning and teaching alongside Prof. Leal.

“I also break up my schedule by taking two hours to write poetry and tap into personal expression and reflection. I might rejuvenate myself before heading into afternoon activities by grabbing a meal at the Dive in the Jaeger Center.

Rouwaida Nitiema '21

“Some afternoons, I work with Prof. Steven James from the biochemistry and molecular biology department to conduct genetic research. This opportunity coupled with my work as a PLA for a biology lab has allowed me to hone my laboratory techniques and teamwork in a lab setting. I work to identify locations of suppressor mutations through genetic crosses in James’ lab and transition to dissections and examination of specimen slides in the introductory biology course.

“As a STEM Scholar at Gettysburg, I have developed a mind for scientific analysis that prepared me for summer research at the Colorado School of Medicine and Rutgers University-Camden. I also feel equipped to take the MCAT exam and pursue a future in medical school. Gettysburg College has fulfilled my expectations to grow as a collaborator, and gain organization and communication skills. With research and hands-on laboratory experience under my belt, I feel prepared for a future in the science field.”

– Rouwaida Nitiema ’21 of Newark, N.J.

Claire Woodward ’20: Graduate school-bound research extraordinaire

“Before starting research for the day, I may or may not eat breakfast, but I’ll always carry protein bars in my backpack to ensure that I have the proper nutrients to get me through the morning.

“I go to Prof. James’s laboratory in the biology department first thing in the morning to check in on my gel electrophoresis experiment from the night before. I visualize the bands of DNA in the gel to see if the experiment worked and then start my morning classes.

“My classes as a biochemistry and molecular biology major encourage me to think critically to develop research questions, apply various techniques to craft experiments, and effectively communicate my findings while considering how experiments could be altered the future.

Claire Woodward '20

“I’m also a PLA for the chemistry and German studies departments. As a German minor, I enjoy the opportunity to shift my academic focus during the day.

“At lunchtime, I block out at least 30 minutes to grab a bite to eat, and sometimes go back to my apartment to cook to relieve some of the stress of the day.

“After lunch, I might be found in one of two laboratories. I have a scheduled laboratory for one of my courses and I also use the lab to conduct independent research. Student-faculty research at Gettysburg allows me to practice and compare my research techniques to my peers based on the specialties of our faculty mentors.

“The rest of the day consists of my on-campus job, dinner—either homemade in my apartment or at Bullet or Servo—and my evening lab work. Some nights, I have meetings for my sorority as well. At the end of the night, I finish homework and spend time on graduate school applications. I prioritize a healthy sleep schedule in order to stay on top of my schoolwork.

“I can attest that STEM students in Gettysburg College’s small liberal arts setting are given the chance to pursue graduate and medical research training in a competitive program. I landed a summer internship conducting research at a large research institution, received the Goldwater Scholarship in April 2019, and am on track to pursue a PhD in biochemistry.”

– Claire Woodward ’20 of Bloomsburg, Pa.

By Phoebe Doscher ’22
Photos by Miranda Harple
Posted: 04/13/20