Amazing Students

Cali Callaway

Cali Callaway has covered just about as much ground as a student possibly can: three years as a lab researcher in regenerative medicine, developer of a guide for sexual assault resources, volunteer in the community, participant in a number of honor societies, and, for good measure, a world traveler. The Goldwater Scholar is on a clear path to becoming a physician.

Hometown:

Johns Creek, GA

High School:

Woodward Academy

Degree objective:

B.S. in biology/neuroscience, M.S. in artificial intelligence

Expected graduation:

May 2017

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

Treat the symptoms to relieve temporary pain or heal the condition to alleviate long-term suffering? When addressing an ailing patient, doctors tend toward a dual approach: fight both problems at once. But in the case of neurological damage, physicians have no choice. The lack of effective treatments for spinal cord injuries forces patients to endure chronic pain. Over the last four years, the search for an answer to this health care dilemma has directed my narrative.

I joined Dr. Steve Stice in the Regenerative Bioscience Center as a freshman. In my time working in his laboratory, I dedicated a year to the development of a neural tube injury model in chickens incorporating mouse pluripotent stem cells. Although we produced some positive results, the project eventually reached a standstill. Seeking better outcomes, I ventured to Dr. Roger Kamm’s lab at MIT. This opportunity exposed me to a microfluidics platform for the study of neuromuscular junction formation, the basis of our chicken investigation. Thanks to the skills gained during this summer research experience, we spent the past year collaborating between the Kamm and Stice labs.

Regenerative medicine, however, is not limited to biology. Freshman year, I traveled to Zurich, Switzerland, for a research internship at Hocoma AG, the world’s largest producer of robotic rehabilitation devices. Working with an upper body orthosis for neurological injury patients sparked a fascination with the role of robotic devices in medicine. Once home, I began a dual B.S./M.S. in artificial intelligence to gain a technical understanding of these machines. Because of my work in these fields, I was named a 2016 Barry M. Goldwater Scholar.

During my sophomore year, I enrolled in the Roosevelt Scholars course on a bit of a whim. I researched sexual assault on college campuses and considered the public health framework, policies and social norms that dictate societal response to intimate partner violence. Discussions with key stakeholders in the community clarified the need for preventive education about this issue. Students have the right to know their options following an assault, but without normalizing dialogue about healthy relationships and sexual violence, victims will never feel comfortable speaking out. My paper on this topic was published in the 10 Ideas for Equal Justice Journal and selected as the Equal Justice nominee for Policy of the Year. My research provided a strong academic understanding of the field, but without a practical component the work felt empty.

Considering my findings, I developed a “Sexual Assault Resources Guide” that includes the name, contact information and description of every support service in and around campus. UGA’s Center for Teaching and Learning currently distributes this directory for professors to include on their course syllabi. To foster further discussion and introduce this guide to the community, I worked with a panel of faculty in bringing “The Hunting Ground,” the Sundance documentary about campus sexual assault, to UGA. Over 500 attendees viewed the film and participated in a panel discussion.

Through these activities, I connected with the Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention office where I began serving a peer educator and, as of this semester, the vice president for campus and community outreach. We plan and facilitate educational programming about healthy relationships and resources for victims. I also volunteer as a hotline crisis counselor for the North Georgia Cottage, the local sexual assault and children’s advocacy center.

Outside of my work in sexual assault education and advocacy, I’ve had the opportunity to lead UGA Mathcounts Outreach and the Honors Program Student Council. I also participate in a number of honor societies including Palladia, Omicron Delta Kappa, Blue Key and Tate. Undoubtedly, the primary benefit of these different organizations is the outstanding students with whom I get to connect.

Finally, the University of Georgia has opened the door to the world for me — over three years, I’ve visited 11 countries. From the buzzing streets of Havana to the back of a camel in the Sahara, UGA has colored my world with experiences beyond my imagination. I am so grateful to all who made the global perspective allowed by these opportunities possible.

Family Ties to UGA:

Georgia blood runs deep in my family. My grandfather was a professor emeritus in the College of Education, so my dad grew up in Athens. He later graduated from the Grady College of Journalism with a degree in broadcast journalism. As a kid, I tagged along with my die-hard fan of a father for scores of football games (including the dreaded 2008 blackout against Alabama). I always had a blast, but never thought I would learn to call this place my second home.

I chose to attend UGA because…

… of the unique opportunity to deeply invest in research and travel the world. Thanks in large part to the Foundation Fellowship, I interacted with countless students while I was deciding where to go to college. Time and again, I was impressed with the breadth and depth of their experiences while students here. I knew I could follow my passions with the support of outstanding faculty and staff. The last three years absolutely have exceeded all expectations. At every turn, I’ve found endless opportunities and met some outstanding people along the way. Choosing UGA was the best decision of my life.

My favorite things to do on campus are…

… eating lunch outside. We have such a beautiful campus, but it’s easy not to fully appreciate it during the hustle and bustle of the day. When school gets hectic, it’s nice to take my lunch break while enjoying the scenery.

When I have free time, I like…

… to delve into some pretzel bites at the World Famous with friends. In general, any food-oriented activity is agreeable to me. I started watching the Food Network before I could talk and derive a lot of pleasure from experimenting in the kitchen. My incredible roommates tolerate the occasional disaster — discount fish was a poor decision — and help clean up the mess that invariably ensues. When we’re not recovering from culinary misadventures, all six of us pile onto the couch to catch up on our lives and watch trashy television. I’m so lucky to have them to fill my days with unadulterated joy.

The craziest thing I've done is…

I once ate three bowls of Fuzzy’s cheese dip by myself. It was a huge mistake.

My favorite place to study is…

… the reading room on the third floor of the library. I love watching people (and their puppies) on the quad while I work. Off campus, I frequent Walker’s and Hendershot’s. When my friend Tyler and I were preparing for the MCAT, we’d arrive before the doors were unlocked and stay for hours. The music, art, people and caffeine made the stress of studying far more manageable.

My favorite professor is…

I’ve connected with so many fantastic professors on this campus that it’s impossible to name just one. I’ve had the honor of working with Dr. Steve Stice since my freshman year. I am continually impressed by his ability to provide careful mentorship, produce high-quality research and advocate for his community. His example has dictated many of my own goals. After reconnecting with her through her pre-medical seminar, Dr. Sylvia Hutchinson has also hugely impacted me. My grandfather served on her thesis committee when she was a graduate student here, and I enrolled in her course without either of us recognizing the other. Her kindness, outspoken feminism and empathy make her one of the greatest women I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. I’d be remiss not to mention Dr. Don Potter in the Institute of Artificial Intelligence. His courses changed my educational career, and I’m lucky to have his support through the harrowing experience of graduate classes. Michele Passonno in the Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention office has also guided me through my reach about and advocacy for victims of sexual violence. Her positivity in the face of very difficult situations serves as an example for the kind of physician I hope to become. Last but not least, Jessica Hunt and Dr. David Williams in the Honors Program have provided wonderful guidance and opened so many doors for me over the last three years.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…

… my family. My mom and dad filled my childhood with love and laughter. They kindled my curiosity and sacrificed time and again for the sake of my education. Any modicum of success I have achieved is thanks to them. Most importantly, they gave me a best friend for life — my incredible little brother, Cash. I admire everything about him. Next year, he will start college, and I will begin medical school; I want to cherish the time we have close to one another while I can.

If I knew I could not fail, I would…

… find a simple, effective treatment for brain and spinal cord injuries. Having interned at Shepherd Spinal Center in high school, I’ve seen the devastating impact of these afflictions firsthand. Limited effective treatments force patients to endure chronic discomfort and permanent dependence. Their families bear the undue financial and emotional burden of providing round-the-clock care. Finding an affordable means to heal the nervous system would bring peace to so many struggling patients and their families.

If money was not a consideration, I would love to…

… make a Time-Turner and repeat college, Hermione Granger-style. With the end of my time here quickly drawing near, I can’t help but think four years is not enough. I’ve loved my studies in the sciences, but I would really enjoy the chance to delve deeply into the humanities. I’d spend at least a semester abroad and traverse as much of the globe as possible. Maybe I’d even fulfill my secret dream of owning a restaurant. It really seems like there’s too many things I’d love to do and not nearly enough time to do them.

After graduation, I plan to…

… attend medical school, hopefully. The application process is in full swing, and I’m waiting (im)patiently for news!

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…

… watching the sun rise over the Sahara Desert in Morocco with some of my favorite people. It was windy and freezing, so we ran back to camp giggling as soon as the sun fully crossed the horizon. Under the direction of Dr. Kenneth Honerkamp, we’d spent the week immersing ourselves in Moroccan culture. I can’t think of a more perfect conclusion to an incredible experience.

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