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illustration by Shannon Mooney ('94)TAMS Lessons by Colin J. Meyer (TAMS '97)

When I recently returned to North Texas to give the current Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science students a glimpse into future career possibilities, I asked TAMS Dean Richard Sinclair,
"I didn't look that young, did I?"

Dr. Sinclair laughed and said firmly, "Yes, you did."

My decision to attend TAMS, affectionately referred to as "nerd school," was one of my best. I will never forget starting my college career at UNT at the age of 16. Leaving the familiar surroundings of my hometown of Granbury and heading to a large university before I finished high school seemed like the right choice at the time.

Taking 16 to 18 hours of classes per semester was tough as a 16-year-old from small-town Texas. With chemistry, biology, physics and organic labs, I was in class or lab for most of the week.

One of my most indelible memories involves my next-door neighbor in the TAMS residence hall, Dennis. He was having problems with his computer, and after taking it completely apart in the hallway, he used his oscilloscope and other electronic equipment to diagnose the problem. Finally, after he'd finished an hour of intense work, my roommate and I heard him screaming, "The nanoseconds are off, the nanoseconds are off!"

This was the same Dennis who started TAMS at age 13, knew five languages fluently, was accepted into the Massachusetts Institute of Technology early decision program at age 15, and could build a computer from the ore in his backyard if he was given a shovel, a soldering iron and an oscilloscope.

Dorm life was fun, but my history class will always be unforgettable. To this day, I have not had a professor as excellent as Dr. Randolph Campbell, who still teaches the U.S. history survey class. I would sit down in my chair, take out my notebook and pen, sit back and listen to Dr. Campbell's vivid stories. He might have referred to his notes a handful of times during the duration of the two-semester course.

As I stood in front of the incredibly young-looking TAMS students, talking about the path my life had taken since I had been one of them, I realized that I had not fully appreciated the lessons of TAMS and the benefits of attending college two years early until recently.

Because of my hard work at UNT, I was able to graduate from the University of Virginia with two degrees in two years and earn a medical degree from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School at Dallas.

Although practicing medicine had been my original intention and the most likely course for a person with an M.D., I decided to pursue a career on the business side of medicine. I began business school at Southern Methodist University and became the second employee of a start-up biotechnology company formed out of technology from UT Southwestern Medical Center and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

So what were the lessons of TAMS? I learned that there will always be someone more intelligent than I am, but I will always have the initiative and drive to accomplish any goal. I also learned to take risks and not be governed by predefined rules.

I chose, not the easiest path, but the one that suits me best.


About the author

Since graduating from TAMS, Colin J. Meyer has received bachelor's degrees in chemistry and biology from the University of Virginia and an M.D. from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School at Dallas. In December, he will complete his M.B.A. from Southern Methodist University. He has worked for Reata Discovery Inc., a biotechnology company, since December 2002.

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