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From here to a Ph.D

Self-described lab rat Amanda Hyre is excited to embark on a new academic adventure, and she credits Tidewater Community College with providing a much-needed foundation.

Hyre graduated from TCC in May 2012 with an Associate of Science that allowed her to seamlessly transfer to Virginia Wesleyan College. She will receive her bachelor’s in biology at commencement ceremonies on May 16 and is one of six accepted into Wake Forest University’s doctorate program for cellular and molecular bioscience.

The Virginia Beach native struggled during her high school years in the classroom, got her GED and worked for several years as a manager at a local bowling alley. She married husband Jake young and with 2-year-old son, Landon, in tow, she needed a college that was affordable and flexible.

“TCC was the obvious option,” she said.

Hyre wanted to be a doctor, or so she thought, upon entering TCC. She thrived in her science classes, particularly enjoying physics under Professor Charles Hood and biology under former faculty member Lisa Byrum.

“They both put their passions into the subjects, which made their classes enjoyable,” Hyre said.

An undergraduate research project in the fall of 2013 convinced her that she would prefer research to working in neonatology or pediatric gastroenterology, both fields she had considered.

Her “light bulb” moment occurred while studying Wolbachia, a genus of bacteria that lives in fruit flies. “I would be in the lab at 8 o’clock on a Saturday morning feeling, ‘This is amazing. I could do this forever,’” she said. “I like being in the background.”

Hyre fell in love with the doctorate program, faculty and campus at Wake Forest and was initially crushed when told her application was on hold. Two weeks later, the school extended an offer, and Hyre accepted immediately. She begins the 5 ½-year program, which includes a graduate assistantship, in August.

Her son, Landon, 7, remains her inspiration. She anticipates frequent weekend visits from him and Jake and will use Skype regularly to communicate with her family. Hyre said she wanted to show Landon that anything is possible with sacrifice and hard work.

“It all started at TCC,” she said. “TCC got me used to being in a college classroom. People think it’s easy because it’s community college, but it was not easy. TCC was a great foundation.”

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