Student Profile - Will Pickard

Pre-med, biology major continues family tradition

Growing up around medicine, Nederland native Will Pickard could not imagine pursuing another profession.Pickard

“Not only is my dad a doctor, but two of my cousins are as well,” said the biology/pre-med major. “It was an amazing feeling to watch my father help each and every one of his patients in his practice and to watch the patients’ attitudes change once they were treated. This made me realize that I would not be happy doing anything else other than medicine.”

With the majority of his family having attended Lamar, Pickard listened to his father’s advice on where to further his education. 

 “Although I was accepted to other universities, my dad urged me to consider Lamar, saying that it got him to be where he is as a doctor today,” Pickard said. “I discovered that Lamar has an excellent track record with its pre-med students getting accepted into medical schools which ultimately led to my decision to attend Lamar.”

Since arriving to Lamar, Pickard has participated in organizations such as the Lamar Honors Program, American Medical Student Association (AMSA), Beta Beta Beta (National Biology Honor Society), has been inducted into the Phi Beta Delta International Scholars Honors Society Beta Xi Chapter, participated on the rugby team, and was selected as a LU Ambassador.

As a LU Ambassador, Pickard acts as the face of Lamar’s student body. Ambassadors are chosen from a variety of backgrounds and attend community and university events as representatives of the campus.

“The opportunity to hold a leadership position, one that is highly valued, as well as the ability to let other people know that I enjoyed my time at Lamar, led me to apply to be an Ambassador,” Pickard said. “I take pride in showing donors that students are able to pursue a future with their financial help.”

Through his participation in these organizations, Pickard said it opened his mind to other cultures.

In the summer between his freshman and sophomore year, Pickard set off to enrich his college experience via a study abroad trip to Belize with the biology department.

“Belize was my first trip to Central America, and it was a blast,” Pickard said. “We stayed at a research camp facility, visited the jungle, and went to an island. Not only did we perform research, but we had fun as well.”

During the trip, Pickard met Ana Beardsley Christensen, an associate professor of biology at Lamar who performs research concerning the occurrence of hemoglobin in brittle stars. After returning from Belize, Pickard asked if she had an available spot in her lab, where consequently they came up with a research project regarding regeneration in brittle stars.

“Beforehand, I was interested in regenerative medicine and I knew that performing research would be helpful before going on to medical school. Beginning the fall semester of my sophomore year with the help of my mentor, Dr. Christensen, I began my research dealing with brittle stars and specifically afuni - a protein that brittle stars use for regeneration,” Pickard said. “We observed this to see how conserved the gene was in different species. This protein works with cell signaling and cell differentiation when the cells regenerate.”

“Basically, we isolated DNA from different species of brittle stars, then we had to amplify the DNA, and then we made sure we were isolating the correct protein,” Pickard said. “After that, we sequenced the DNA and analyzed the DNA sequence to see how many different changes there were in the coding sequence. The reason for doing this was to build a phylogenetic tree to see how closely the different species were related regarding this protein.”

Pickard presented his research at the Texas Academy of Science in February 2012 and later went on to present at the National Collegiate Honors Council Conference in New Orleans this past December.

“The conference is large and designed for honor programs throughout the country,” Pickard said. “For the presentation, you set up a poster and people come around and ask you questions. It is great for networking and seeing what other people are working on.”

In addition to his research and involvement in campus organizations, Pickard works as a Supplemental Instruction Leader for the anatomy and physiology classes through the STARS Tutoring Center.

“I have the opportunity to interact with students and help them learn, which in turn helps me learn,” Pickard said. “I get to give back to those who might be struggling in their classes.”

Before graduating in May 2014, Pickard plans on attending the National AMSA Annual Convention.

“The conference has different presentations over a variety of topics about medicine, including how to get into medical school. It allows people from around the country to discuss ideas and to learn about what’s going on in medicine today,” Pickard said. “Last year at the convention, students were taught how to do intubations and basic first aid maneuvers.”

Pickard said that with financial assistance from scholarships such as the Dr. Floyd and Marie McSpadden Sr. Memorial Scholarship, McMasters Honors Scholarship, and the Hahn Family Scholarship, he gained the opportunity to further his education.

“With the rising cost of education, these scholarships give me, as well as other students, a great opportunity to continue their education without worrying about paying off loans,” Pickard said.

Along with his love for living in the Cardinal Village residence halls, “a home away from home,” Pickard likes to hang out in the Setzer Student Center. Pickard loves the small classes and the chance to develop strong relationships with professors.

“At Lamar, it really is a personal relationship where professors know your name, unlike other bigger universities where you’re just a face,” Pickard said. “Also, the smaller campus makes everything seem much friendlier like a close-knit community.”

Pickard feels that his time with the Lamar biology department has thoroughly prepared him for medical school.

“Lamar has provided me a challenging education that I believe is on the same par of bigger universities,” Pickard said. “Also, the professors at Lamar taught me how to think outside of the box and more critically. I can’t thank my professors enough for pushing me to my limits and bringing out the potential that I have.”

Attending Lamar has provided Pickard invaluable experiences such as the ability to pursue research opportunities while establishing a solid foundation for attending medical school.

“Since coming to Lamar, I am a more open person. Graduating from high school and entering into college, I was shy,” Pickard said. “However, participating in organizations forced me out of my comfort zone and made me more socially inclined. Overall, I have grown tremendously as a person.”