Robert Nance knows harmony.
As a triple major in biology, chemistry and violin, his five years of undergraduate studies at UNT have been an exercise in balance -- an intermixture of science and music that have made the future doctor's life richer for the journey.
"Music is something we understand on a level beyond verbal expression. You could have a full orchestra where each player speaks a different language but the one language they speak and understand together is music," says Robert, an Arlington native. "And medicine is a place where you're always going to learn --it's the one field where we really incorporate ourselves because the apparatus we're working with is the human body."
Robert first fell in love with the violin as a fifth grader. When he initially applied to UNT, it was with the goal of becoming a music educator. He was impressed by what he considered to be "one of the best music schools in the world," but by the end of his senior year in high school, his career aspirations shifted to medicine. That's why he felt so lucky, he says, to have already been accepted to UNT, one of only 131 Tier One research universities in the nation.
"It wasn't the typical story of 'Oh, I've wanted to be a doctor since I was a child,'" says Robert, who notes he was partly inspired to pursue the field because of his mother, a registered nurse's assistant. "But if there's one thing we're always going to need in society, it's health care professionals."
Nearly 18 months ago, Robert joined the lab of Amie Lund, associate professor of environmental toxicology, where he's researched the neurological effects of diabetes drugs on mouse astrocytes and presented his undergraduate thesis on the topic as part of the Honors College research track. He's completed semesters abroad in Andalusia, Spain, for his Spanish minor and has taken as many as 19 hours of classes per semester -- which as a music major, can feel nearly double that. So you'd be forgiven for assuming he either never sleeps or never leaves his apartment. Neither is true, he laughs.
"I will admit that, initially, I had the mindset of, 'I have to get through undergrad as fast as I can,'" says Robert, who plans to complete a one-year post-baccalaureate program following graduation before applying for medical school. "My second year, things did not go as well as I had hoped academically and that was a big wake-up call. I realized that I'm human, and I'm going to make mistakes, and we all have to live life while we still can."
With all of the challenges that have accompanied completing college during COVID-19, Robert says it's also critical for this year's graduates to reflect on their incredible accomplishments -- and the beginning of a new era.
"This is an unprecedented time not just in terms of the pandemic, but also in terms of cultural change," says Robert. "We're in a big transitional phase, and we should let this drive us to keep pursuing our interests and passions, to keep pursuing the improvements we're after and to use that resolve to better mankind."