The Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department is proud to be called home to some of the most outstanding undergraduate students in higher education. These students display a high level of dedication, not only in furthering their education but in their desire to be on the frontlines of scientific discovery.
Meet Hannah Flamini, a Senior majoring in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and minoring in Psychology. Her interest and passion for science sparked in high school, but it wasn’t until her senior year that she became clear on what her future would hold. It was through both an AP biology and an anatomy and physiology course, both taught by Meagan Beekler, that Hannah’s fascination was piqued. “I found it amazing how every function of our body and cause of disease can be explained on a molecular level,” said Hannah. It was this fascination that pushed Hannah to continue her education in biochemistry and work towards her goal of working in the medical field.
Having figured out what degree she wanted to pursue; Hannah’s next decision was at what university would she earn it. This decision came easier to Hannah than most. With both of her parents, Valerie and Frank Flamini, being Penn State Alumni, having earned their degrees in Education, she had grown up a Penn Stater and made many trips to the University Park Campus throughout her childhood. She knew that she wanted to attend a large school, one that had numerous opportunities and resources, and Penn State was the perfect choice for her. “I've always felt like I've just fit in with the campus and community here,” said Hannah.
Hannah has not shied away from the opportunities available to her at Penn State. This fall marks the fourth semester she has served the University as Learning Assistant (LA). Beginning in her second semester, she has worked as an LA for Chemistry 110, assisting Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, Mark Maroncelli, the past 3 semesters. “I've loved being a Learning Assistant because it has gotten me much more comfortable teaching other students, and it is also a great way to always be strengthening my knowledge of chemistry,” says Hannah. In her role as an LA, Hannah has conducted demos during lectures and held review sessions prior to exams. In preparing for the fall 2020 semester, Hannah has dedicated more time to her work as an LA. Working alongside Maroncelli, she is developing quizzes, drafting clicker questions and producing problem solving videos, which she is uploading to her YouTube channel in order to support her students.
As an undergraduate student, Hannah has also sought out and taken part in several shadowing experiences with various doctors. During the summer of 2019, she volunteered at UPMC Pinnacle, in the hospital’s Interventional Radiology Department. Hannah wanted to learn what working in a hospital was like, while also having the opportunity to give back to the community. “The experience to get to meet patients each week and watch right next to the doctors in the catheter lab was super interesting to me, and I learned so much from it,” said Hannah.
Prior to her time at UPMC Pinnacle she had never heard of interventional radiology. Her experience helped her gain an appreciation for the use of technology in medicine and showed her the multitude of procedures that can be performed in a minimally invasive way using interventional radiology. She also credits the experience with showing her how medical teams work together and the high level of communication between doctors, technicians and nurses. Hannah was scheduled to take part in an internship at Cedars-Sinai Hospital, in Los Angeles, conducting human factor research in the Department of Surgery. Although the opportunity was postponed, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she hopes to take advantage of the opportunity next summer.
Outside of the classroom, Hannah is actively engaged in multiple groups within the Penn State Community. Her biggest involvement outside of classes is playing saxophone in the Penn State Blue Band. “Being in the Blue Band is one of the biggest privileges I've had at Penn State, as it is an amazing group of people that all share a common interest,” says Hannah. She says that work ethic, time management, and responsibility are just a few of the things that being a member of the Blue Band has taught her. She credits the Blue Band for making her a better student saying, “Besides making you a better musician, the Blue Band also makes you a better student, member of the community, and really shapes your character as a whole.”
Hannah also serves as the Secretary for the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department’s Biochemistry Society, working with the group to develop professional development opportunities for students in the biochemistry field. Hannah is also a member of Penn State’s Pre-Health Honors Society, Alpha Epsilon Delta (AED). She credits AED for providing her the opportunity to connect with other pre-med students and interact with healthcare professionals. One of her favorite experiences with AED has been attending Primary Care Day at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center where she, and other students, had the opportunity to meet current medical students and attend workshops focused on the possibilities of being a primary care physician. Hannah is also a member in the newly formed AED Diversity Task Force, where they are helping raise public awareness of the discrimination that still occurs in medicine and has helped start an Instagram page to promote this.
After graduating from Penn State, Hannah plans to attend medical school after taking a gap year. Although she is not yet certain as to what kind of doctor she will become, she is certain that she will incorporate the importance of mental health into any future role saying, “I've learned how big of a role mental health plays in affecting a person’s physical health.”