Avery Skye Zickar: B.S. in Biochemistry, minor in Biology

Throughout her undergraduate years, she felt at home in Tech

You could say that Avery Skye Zickar has Georgia Tech in her genes. Her mother, two uncles, and one brother are alumni. That affinity – and knowing that academics at Georgia Tech would be top-notch – cemented her decision to attend Tech after graduating from Hillgrove High School in Powder Springs, Georgia.

Avery comes from a family that highly values education. In high school, she took Advanced Placement courses for a taste of college academics. “They prepared me well for Georgia Tech by instilling a good work ethic and minimizing procrastination,” she says.

At Hillgrove High, Avery performed with the marching band and the wind symphony. She was also a horseback rider, participating in a few competitions but mostly riding recreationally. “Looking back,” she says, “I did a decent job of balancing my commitments to school, work, family, and friends.

Avery is graduating with a B.S. in Biochemistry and a minor in Biology. She tailored her academic program with the intent to continue her education in the medical field. Throughout her undergraduate years, she says, “the Institute made me feel right at home.”

What is the most important thing you learned at Georgia Tech?

Georgia Tech honed my ability to solve problems. Throughout my time at Tech, I’ve had to find solutions to problems with homework, exams, personal conflicts, and community-wide issues.

My problem-solving skills will serve me well when I enter the working world. I am confident in my ability to tackle whatever life throws at me, thanks to my time at Georgia Tech.

What are your proudest achievements at Georgia Tech?

I received a bid from Tau Beta Sigma, the National Honorary Band Service Sorority, during spring 2015. Through that organization, I participated in service projects to benefit the School of Music and the Atlanta community.

I served as teaching assistant (TA) for Introductory Biology and Organic Chemistry 2.

I worked as a student assistant in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences’ office for over two years.

I was elected president of the Band Club and served the Georgia Tech Band program during the 2017-18 school year.

I was one of five finalists for Ms. Georgia Tech. Selection was based on interviews, grade point average, campus leadership, service, and love for the Institute.

These achievements contributed to my happiness and success at Tech.

Which professors or classes made a big impact on you?

I took CHEM 1211 and 1212 with Dr. Kimberly Schurmeier, who was also my advisor. She pushed me to be the best I can be in chemistry, even though I came to Tech without a strong chemistry background. She played in key role in my success in chemistry and in college.

Dr. Michael Evans helped me with Organic Chemistry 1, a well-known “weed out” course in my major. Although he wasn’t my professor, he went out of his way to help me understand the material.

Dr. Shana Kerr was also influential. She taught one of my favorite classes – Introduction to Organismal Biology. She was also the professor for the section of Biological Principles for which I was a TA in fall 2016. She taught me how to be an effective teacher, and I still use those concepts today.

I enjoyed working with Dr. Cameron Tyson as part of the BEST Study Abroad Program, first as a student and then as one of his TAs. A great professor, he taught us the foundations of Organic Chemistry 2. He also gave me a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to teach in France!

Finally, I recognize the two teachers I’ve had every semester since day one: Chris Moore and B.J. Diden, my band directors. They are extremely supportive of my own and other band members’ endeavors, always pushing us to perform to our highest levels.

These wonderful people made a big impact on my life, and I’m very grateful for them.

What is your most vivid memory of Georgia Tech?

The Georgia Tech versus University of Georgia (UGA) football game in 2014.

We stood in Sanford Stadium, surrounded by red and black, just three points from moving into overtime. Harrison Butker (now a kicker for the Kansas City Chiefs) scored a field goal from 53 yards, tying the game and putting it into overtime.

The band players were screaming; the drum majors were scrambling for us to play the fight songs. Within minutes, the Yellow Jackets intercepted the ball from UGA, and the game ended.

The stadium fell silent, except for the sliver of Tech fans, who went wild.

We ran to the buses and got out of Athens fast. It was such an unforgettable moment. I think about that game every time I look at the score on my RAT cap.

In what ways did your time at Georgia Tech transform your life?

I became a well-rounded individual, one more prepared to tackle life than the person I was in high school.

The “real world” seemed daunting. I thought it meant having to take care of myself without help from anyone. Tech taught me not only how to solve problems, but also that that we don’t have to solve problems alone. We can rely on loved ones, family, friends, coworkers, or peers for support.

I met incredible people on campus, many of whom I call my friends. Nothing seems insurmountable with them by my side. I hope to maintain these relationships for the rest of my life.

What unique learning activities did you undertake?

I participated in the BEST Study Abroad Program in summer 2016, taking Organic Chemistry 2, Cell and Molecular Biology, and Synthesis Lab. The program is eight weeks long, and courses are taught at CPE-Lyon University, in Lyon, France. I got a second summer abroad, when I returned to Lyon as a TA.

Between studying and gallivanting across Europe, I had many great experiences and learned a lot. The world extends beyond the U.S. borders; there are so many wonderful people, cultures, and histories to discover.

I learned about myself and what I can overcome – such as balancing the “study” with the “abroad,” navigating the Paris Métro system, or fumbling through several languages just to order lunch.

I came back stronger, wiser, and better.

What advice would you give to incoming undergraduate students at Georgia Tech?

After my first year at Tech, I posted on Facebook what I felt summed up my experience:

“Say hello. Don't be afraid. Challenge yourself. Meet one professor. Find a passion. Pursue your passion. Make a friend. Define your values. Care about your appearance. Take a chance. Follow your heart. Fall in love. Lend a hand. Join an organization. Find your sphere of influence. Lift the fallen. Monitor your actions. Fail. Cry. A lot. Get mad. Get driven. Strive for your goals. Succeed. Give thanks. Relax. Breathe. Say goodnight, not goodbye.”

I think that says it all.

Where are you headed after graduation?

I will continue to work as an emergency medical technician (EMT) to accrue patient care hours in preparation for physician assistant (PA) school. Most PA schools require at least 1,000 hours. While I log those hours, I plan to get my Advanced EMT (AEMT) certification, which allows me to place intravenous (IV) lines and give other medications to patients.

I’d love to work in obstetrics and gynecology as a PA. Georgia Tech helped me complete all the courses needed for PA school. It also gave me important life skills to be a successful PA – problem solving, working in groups, and one-on-one interactions, which were instilled in me at Tech.