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Rein preparing for her dream job as a doctor

Barry McNamara
Emily Rein takes a break from a column chromatography session in the "cold room" in the College's Center for Science and Business.
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MONMOUTH, Ill. – The past three summers have been notable for Emily Rein ’21 of Morton, Ill., and she hopes to fit in one more impactful summer experience before her Monmouth College career is complete and she heads to medical school.

On Aug. 7, Rein completed her eight-week Monmouth Kieft Summer Research Program commitment, studying peroxidases under the direction of chemistry professor Laura Moore. Peroxidases are enzymes that catalyze oxygenation with hydrogen peroxide, and Rein’s research involved attempting to purify two specific types, working with ovoperoxidase from purple sea urchins and with horseradish peroxidase.

In particular, she’s gained experience with column chromatography, an essential laboratory technique that involves separating individual compounds from a mixture.

“It’s a good way to learn and gain new techniques,” Rein said of Monmouth’s summer research program. “I’m going to be able to stay with this project for two more years, so I hope to really be able to do some interesting things with it.”

In 2018, Rein spent two months in Houston at the Baylor College of Medicine’s DeBakey Summer Surgery Program. There, she was the only one of 12 college students who wasn’t from Texas or studying in Texas. She was also from the smallest school, as most of the other students attended universities with enrollments well over 10,000.

The program was divided into a pair of month-long experiences, focusing on cardiac surgery then general surgery. Rein went on rounds with doctors and often scrubbed in, one day holding a patient’s heart as the surgeon did a bypass graft procedure.

“In that procedure, there isn’t an instrument delicate enough to hold the heart,” she said. “That was the coolest part of my cardiac surgery experience by far.”

Career goal

Rein’s time in Texas was further confirmation that her longtime career goal of attending medical school is the right path.

“I’ve been thinking about becoming a doctor since early in high school,” said the biochemistry major. “I was able to go to a cadaver lab when I was in high school, and that showed me that I can handle the body part. That experience, plus some of the shadowing I’ve done in the medical field, really made me think that’s what I wanted to do when I got to college.”

Rein said she hopes to become an OB/GYN, or obstetrician-gynecologist. As a high school student, she had a shadowing experience with a midwife, and she also spent two days shadowing in the OB/GYN unit of a hospital in Texas. 

“That’s definitely the direction I want to go in medical school, but I’m keeping my mind open, too,” she said.

Choosing Monmouth

If Rein changes her mind, there would be a precedent for that. After all, she very nearly attended a different type of college in a different state.

“It’s kind of a funny story,” she replied, when asked how she chose Monmouth College. “Ever since my sophomore year of high school, my dream was to attend the University of Kentucky. I was dead set on it until I went there in April (of 2017) for orientation.”

Seeing a room full of hundreds of other incoming freshmen was unsettling to her.

“I felt like no cared about me,” she said.

One of Rein’s high school classmates had chosen Monmouth, and she encouraged Rein to check it out. On the eve of the College’s summer orientation, Rein spoke with an admission representative, who not only assured her that she wasn’t too late to attend the event, but also provided the type of personal touch that distinguishes Monmouth.

“When I got there, she gave me a handmade nametag that she’d tried to make look just the same as the others,” said Rein. “I remember thinking, ‘This is the place I should be.’ I didn’t feel like just a number.”

Rein has since found that another advantage of attending Monmouth is student involvement opportunities. A member of the women’s fraternity Pi Beta Phi, she serves as vice president of membership. Rein is president of the Pre-Health Society, captain of the dance team, and the student government representative for the College’s chapter of the American Chemical Society.

Rein’s student involvement and research experiences should catch the eye of medical school interviewers, and she plans to enhance her résumé with one more summer opportunity before she graduates, possibly pursuing a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program in 2020, potentially at Baylor. She has also looked into other programs that feature a shadowing element and working with patients.