Today we highlight Ecampus student Helen Giles, a Cornell graduate and avid hockey fan who works as a Research Analyst in New York. With plans for med school in her future, she is currently working her way through our 200-level General Chemistry series for science majors.

Many thanks to Helen for the wonderful narrative below that details her experience:

Helen Giles photo.jpgIn March 2013, I was a senior at Cornell University not knowing what my future was going to hold. I was graduating with a degree in biological and medical anthropology with experiences ranging from three years of work at the top hotel school in the country, to a summer archeological dig in Spain, to bartending at a popular Collegetown bar. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after graduation; all I knew was that I wanted to be in New York City and that I had a long-standing passion for medicine.

One Thursday afternoon, I went in to work to bartend a pregame for a Cornell hockey game. No one showed up and I drew the short straw to hold down the fort until the night shift arrived. What I thought of as an unlucky draw at the time set the ball in motion for my post-graduate future. About thirty minutes into my vigil, two alumni walked in; after drinks had been poured and proper introductions made, we got into a discussion about careers and opportunities. Over the course of the evening we exchanged stories from our times at Cornell, what we were currently doing, and goals for the future – by the time I left my shift that night, I had an interview lined up in NYC at the firm owned by one of the alum. A month later, I was offered a job at Northwestern Mutual in midtown Manhattan.

I worked at Northwestern Mutual for two years, working in different roles and establishing relationships with many in the firm, from college interns to retired agents. I learned so much and loved the people, but my passion for medicine was left unfulfilled.

Then one day, I had a bit of a wake-up call—in the very real sense of my apartment building going up in flames. Everyone made it out safely and the firefighters did an incredible job containing the fire, but the building was destroyed. Mine was one of the only apartments in the whole building, and the only one on the floor below the fire, that didn’t lose everything (always remember fire safety – shut doors and windows if you have time! 🙂 ). After this experience, I realized that I was the only one who could make a change in my life. On the night of the fire, my best friend’s boss had emailed me an offer for an interview. Although I was a little delayed in my response, the company was very understanding of my “predicament” and the next month, I took a job in the healthcare division of a marketing company, working solely on oncology market research for pharmaceutical companies.

In my new position, I watched my passion for medicine reawaken fully – not only did I love the oncology trainings, but I sought out more and more knowledge on whatever project I was working on. I realized something I never expected to say – I missed school. Soon after, I began looking for a program that would allow me to take chemistry classes, but in a way that I could continue my full-time job and have the flexibility of managing my own time. That’s when I came across OSU’s Ecampus chemistry program.

I had always been disappointed in myself for my lack of dedication to chemistry in college – I had taken a full year of chemistry with lab at Cornell, but didn’t do as well as I should have. (It was freshman year; I was adapting to campus life and, at the time, thought there were more exciting things than studying.)  Chemistry was my favorite class in high school; in fact, I applied to Cornell as a chemistry, pre-med major. Medical school is my long-term goal and plan and that goal never died even when I dropped my chemistry major to pursue anthropology. I want to work in sports medicine at a university or other academic institution, helping athletes train safely and get back into the sport they love after an injury. As a gymnast for 17 years, my sports medicine doctor made a huge impression on me and I would like to be able to have that impression on other young athletes. In the short term, I have classes I need to take in order to take the MCAT and be eligible to apply to medical schools. Before jumping into the classes I haven’t taken yet, I thought the best course of action was to re-take chemistry and establish a strong foundation before attempting the other requirements.

I started with CH 231 in Fall ’15. I had never taken an online, or even a self-paced, course before and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had a busy beginning of the Fall with work, but CH 231 afforded me the flexibility to study when I could and to take days off when I couldn’t. I fell back into study patterns from high school at the time when I was a competitive gymnast and a top student. I read each chapter first, then went through the chapter objectives and typed up the responses. Finally, I would go through the chapter videos before doing the homework and quizzes. This class seemed to focus on the actual concepts in chemistry, rather than mostly theory. Now, I understood the “why” behind the problems, and the relevance of the information in real-world applications. The chapter objectives and study problems outlined exactly what I was expected to know from each chapter and were a major resource in studying for the midterm and final. I am now pursuing CH 232. With an even busier work schedule this Spring, I again find it useful to have the flexibility within this program.

Taking classes and managing a full-time job occupies a lot of my weekly schedule. To keep myself happy and healthy, I am an avid Crossfitter and can often be found with a good book in hand. Living in NYC affords me the incredible ability to always have something to do, whether it’s watching NY Rangers hockey games in a sports bar, catching up with friends in Central Park, exploring the wonderful menus of countless restaurants in every nook and cranny; I can often be found trying new things. I look forward to continuing chemistry through OSU’s Ecampus program and balancing my work and outside life in the process.