Photo by Madeleine Castator/Hendrix Office of Marketing Communications
CONWAY, Ark. (April 22, 2020) – In the fall
of 2017, Tristian Wiles ’21 arrived on a college campus more populous than his
hometown. That’s probably a more common experience for students attending a
flagship state university than for those enrolled at a small liberal arts
institution like Hendrix College. But Wiles came from the northeastern Arkansas
community of Ash Flat, which has a population of about 1,100.
As a first-generation student from a rural area,
Wiles admits to being uncertain about whether he would be a good fit for
college life. “But from the friendly housekeepers and caf workers to my
dependable professors, everyone has always made me feel at home in the Hendrix
community,” he says.
It’s evident that Wiles feels at home at
Hendrix (a feeling so common among students that the campus has earned the name
Homedrix). He’s excelled as a biochemistry/molecular biology (BCMB) major and added
a philosophy minor to his academic pursuits. Outside of classes and labs, he
has participated in the BCMB Club, the Hendrix chapter of the American Chemical
Society, and Hendrix Naturalists Club. And drawing on his experience as a
first-generation college student, Wiles connects with students following paths similar
to his own by serving as a mentor for the IRIS Program: Increasing Retention
and Inclusion in STEM.
This spring, he
learned he’d been accepted into three summer research programs—at Yale, Duke,
and UT Southwestern, all programs affiliated with the Amgen
Scholars Program (funded by the Amgen Foundation, the
principal channel for biotech company Amgen’s corporate philanthropy). He
ultimately chose Yale, and was waiting to be matched with a research lab there
when he learned that this summer’s program would be canceled because of the
coronavirus pandemic. He will be able to attend in the summer of 2021, though.
“Because of that delay, I still don’t know
exactly what I’ll study, but it will be some type of biomedical science, likely
to do with genetics and molecular biology,” he said.
By that time, Wiles will have his Hendrix
degree, and plans to move on to pursue a Ph.D. in the biomedical sciences. His
ultimate goal: teaching and conducting research at the college and university
level. It’s one way he plans to pay forward the benefits of his own Hendrix
“I have found such a strong academic support
group at Hendrix,” he says. “I would never have gained the qualifications for
these programs without the help of my research advisors, and I certainly could
not have written the essays necessary for strong applications without the
guidance of my humanities professors and scholarship advisors.”
Wiles believes in the power of making
research opportunities available to undergraduate students because he has
benefited from it himself.
“I was able to start doing research as early
as the end of my freshman year, and completed three projects by the time I was
a junior. I started with research in ecology, and, thanks to the guidance of my
research advisors, I had homed in on my passion for molecular biology by the
end of my third project,” he says. “Hendrix opens so many doors for students
interested in undergraduate scientific research.”
About Hendrix College
A private liberal arts college in Conway, Arkansas, Hendrix College
consistently earns recognition as one of the country’s leading liberal arts
institutions, and is featured in Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools
That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges. Its academic quality and
rigor, innovation, and value have established Hendrix as a fixture in numerous
college guides, lists, and rankings. Founded in 1876, Hendrix has been
affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. To learn more, visit www.hendrix.edu.