Before going to college, Akinade A. Ojemakinde spent his entire life in Southwest Georgia with his father, mother, and older sister. “From my very first day of school to my very last, I was continuously surrounded by high-achieving classmates and friends, as well as supportive teachers and family,” Ojemakinde says of his high school days, in Lee County High School, in Leesburg, Georgia, where he also played trombone in the band and fullback in the soccer team.
Because he wanted to go to medical school, finding a college with a highly rated biology department and research opportunities was his top priority. “Being one of the most rigorous, top-tier research institutions in the nation, Georgia Tech quickly caught my interest,” Ojemakinde says. In addition to Tech neither being too far nor too close to his family, receiving a full-ride merit scholarship from the Stamps President’s Scholarship Program sealed the deal for him to attend Georgia Tech.
Now, Ojemakinde is graduating with a B.S. in Biology, one step closer to his dream of becoming a surgeon.
How did Georgia Tech meet your expectations?
Georgia Tech provided excellent opportunities to conduct high-quality, stimulating research, as a part of courses and in the lab of Patrick McGrath in the School of Biological Sciences.
Tech lived up to the hype and repeatedly challenged me academically; thanks, organic chemistry!
Not only did my research and tougher courses force me to recognize and understand my personal strengths and weaknesses, but they also taught me to ask for assistance more quickly and to work more collaboratively.
"I believe that the science foundation I obtained at Georgia Tech is much stronger than those of my graduate-school peers. Georgia Tech has prepared me well for medical school and my career as a physician."
What are your proudest achievements at Georgia Tech?
In addition to consistently making the Dean’s List and receiving Faculty Honors, I am proud to have served the American Red Cross Club at Georgia Tech as the chair of campus blood drives for three years.
This position combined my passion for donating with the responsibility of ensuring that my peers could donate as well. It was challenging to organize blood drives and reach high donation goals, but I enjoyed planning and facilitating many successful blood drives.
I had great success in the McGrath lab, helping with directed-evolution experiments, analyzing experimental results, and conducting next-generation sequencing to identify the genetic changes responsible for differences in the fitness of the experimental worms C. elegans. My work will lead to a publication and insight into how genetic variation contributes to fitness and the basic rules of metazoan evolution.
Which professors or classes made a big impact on you?
I had Shana Kerr as an instructor nearly every semester. She challenged me in the classroom, presented me numerous opportunities and supported me outside the classroom, and clearly demonstrated her desire for me and others to succeed. She is a significant factor in my success at Georgia Tech.
Courses like Organic Chemistry I and II showed me that I would not enjoy being like Walter Whitman from Breaking Bad. Others like Human Anatomy and Human Physiology significantly influenced my decision to go to medical school and gave me a glimpse of what I can look forward to.
What is your most vivid memory of Georgia Tech?
I’ll never forget playing indoor soccer during my freshman year! I was so happy to play indoor for the first time and join Tech’s soccer community. While playing, however, I collided with an opposing player, tore my left ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), and needed orthopedic surgery to repair it. Nevertheless, this accident couldn’t keep me off the pitch for long!
How did Georgia Tech transform your life?
I used to feel as if I was memorizing facts just to pass exams, and I did not see how certain classes were applicable to my future. Being involved in research changed my perception about the classroom. I now view it as a resource to help me in the lab. This attitude has improved my comprehension and retention of what is taught in class.
My years of work in the McGrath Lab led not only to intellectual, but also to personal, growth. Having to effectively communicate experimental plans and results improved my speaking skills and ability to converse with others about science.
I developed genuine passion for service and medicine. My involvement with the American Red Cross Club at Georgia Tech, the Georgia Tech Excel Program, and the School of Biological Sciences strengthened my belief in the importance of service and love for biological sciences.
Georgia Tech solidified my decision to pursue medicine and dedicate my life to the well-being and health of my community.
What unique learning activities did you undertake?
I was exposed to medicine in practice by working as a medical scribe in the Emergency Department of Atlanta Medical Center. Working two 10-hour night shifts a week in a fast-paced environment transformed my life. With guidance from skilled physicians, I became fluent in medical terminology and confident in my ability to perform in a professional, medical environment.
Doing research in the McGrath Lab for two years was one of my most meaningful and impactful experiences. I had to learn by observing or following the careful instructions of a graduate student in the lab. When I acquired enough expertise, I eventually taught my lab peers what I learned. The ability to apply and teach what I learn will be of great use in medical school and beyond.
What advice would you give to incoming undergraduate students at Georgia Tech?
Be intentional with your time, and learn how to balance your obligations as quickly as possible. There is so much class work to do and so much fun to be had that it is impossible to do everything.
If one makes a conscious effort to balance academic, social, and sleep (please get some sleep!) obligations, everything else will fall into place.
Where are you headed after graduation?
I am headed to Emory University School of Medicine. I wish to specialize in either orthopedic or cardiothoracic surgery.
I believe that the science foundation I obtained at Georgia Tech is much stronger than those of my graduate-school peers. Georgia Tech has prepared me well for medical school and my career as a physician.