A transplant from Fort Worth, Texas, Luke McCage, B.S. ’09, started out at Henderson as a football recruit. But he soon discovered another passion – biology. “My passion for biology stemmed from the first few science courses I took and thoroughly enjoyed,” he said. “Ever since then I knew I was where I was supposed to be.” Now a second-year medical student at the University of Texas Medical Branch – School of Medicine, Luke gives credit to his Henderson experience for helping him reach his goals.
Luke studied abroad in Panama with the biology department, where he learned about oceanography and ecology while SCUBA diving in the ocean and hiking at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. “That experience really opened my eyes to a new culture and helped me learn about the world,” he said.
He also participated in the Undergraduate Teaching Assistant Program, teaching the Introduction to Biology Lab course. Although he said the task seemed daunting at first, he soon became comfortable with the responsibility. Several years of tutoring with Student Support Services also gave him confidence in a teaching role. Currently, Luke tutors first-year medical school classes and said he regards teaching as one of the most rewarding experiences of his life.
Luke said another important stepping stone to graduate school was his involvement in research projects while at Henderson. Luke and his faculty mentor, chemistry professor Dr. Bryan Palmer, spent three years experimenting with high-temperature superconductors and presented their work at national conferences around the country. “All the hours I spent working hard in research helped me build the work ethic that is required for success in medical school. I learned how to write a successful research grant, which we did through the Student Undergraduate Research Fellowship,” Luke said. He said that the research experience he gained was instrumental in his ability to co-author a manuscript that is currently under review for publication in Pediatrics medical journal, among other accomplishments.
In addition to academics, Luke also participated in other activities while an undergraduate student. He was Biology Club president for two years and was active in the Chemistry Club and several honor societies. He also volunteered off-campus with Give Me A Chance Equine Rescue organization. One of his favorite pastimes was the intramural flag football team, which traveled to the Arkansas State Flag Football tournament in Fayetteville, Ark., after winning the Henderson championship.
Luke also lived on campus for most of his education. “As an out-of-state student, I felt like living on campus was a great way for me to stay connected,” he said. During his senior year, he married a fellow Reddie and moved off-campus.
Luke immediately entered medical school after graduating summa cum laude and valedictorian of Ellis College of Arts and Sciences with his bachelor of science in biology and a minor in chemistry. He said he eventually hopes to become an anesthesiologist.
Although there were many factors that contributed to Luke’s success, he said “the small class sizes, challenging curriculum, and excellent research opportunities,” at Henderson specifically helped him reach his goals. “I owe much gratitude to the amazing faculty in the sciences at HSU, especially the biology and chemistry departments. Majoring in biology at HSU is a very challenging, yet equally rewarding experience.”