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Pyu Pyu Win '24
As a child, Pyu Pyu Win ’24 and her family immigrated to the United States from Myanmar. They stopped in Illinois and Indiana before settling in Utica, N.Y., where The Young Scholars Liberty Partnerships Program (YSLPP), a collaborative project established between Utica University and the Utica City School District, helped Win navigate her education and ultimately become a Hamilton student.

Despite moving fewer than 30 minutes from home, Win discovered a host of new opportunities at Hamilton. After spending her first five weeks on campus for the Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program, she found an email inviting her to apply for Hamilton’s Community Outreach and Opportunity Program (COOP) Service Internship Program. She was accepted and immediately began tutoring middle and high school students in Clinton, later interning at the Johnson Park Center in Utica.

“I firmly believe that community outreach serves as a lifeline,” Win said. Johnson Park’s mission of providing accessible resources, including housing assistance and clothing drives, granted her “a distinctive perspective on the profound impact a small entity can wield within a community.” Win also joined ROOTS, a student-led organization for students of color in STEM at Hamilton, to offer peers a family-like atmosphere away from home. 

Win’s commitment to community outreach further blossomed following her freshman year. As a summer intern at the Midtown Utica Community Center, she organized a children’s summer camp and highlighted the center’s activities on social media. She also met and soon partnered with Sarah Morehouse, a graduate student examining gang conscription among resettled Karen refugee youth in Utica.

Pyu Pyu Win '24

Major: Biology
Hometown: Utica, N.Y.
High school: Thomas R. Proctor High School

 

 “The prevailing narrative suggests that with a good education and hard work, one can ascend the social ladder,” Win explained. “I can attest to the challenges faced by immigrants and the limited resources I had growing up.”

In reducing one such challenge — the language barrier between Morehouse and participants — Win advocated for inclusive support systems for immigrants. In the spring of her sophomore year, she presented the team’s findings at the Society for Applied Anthropology Conference in Salt Lake City.

Years after being a mentee in Hamilton’s Let’s Get Ready! program, Win stepped into a mentor role for the Multicultural Peer Mentoring Project, which assists international, first-generation, and historically underrepresented students with their transition to College life. Now, as the senior fellow overseeing STEM outreach for COOP, Win connects local students with Hamilton faculty and students for campus visits and science experiments. Each experience has reinforced her belief in “making sure you’re doing community outreach in a way that will not only benefit the other person but also yourself. You don’t want to just do it as a checklist,” she said.

Win’s academic advisor, Assistant Professor of Biology Rhea Datta, was instrumental in encouraging Win’s academic interests in developmental genetics and environmental effects on genes. Thanks to Datta, Win felt she always had someone to talk to, a confidence that carried into Datta’s course Seminar in Epigenetics. “She makes sure everyone has understood the concept instead of assuming that everyone has learned the concept,” Win said.

Academically, Win oscillated between the pre-med and pre-physician assistant path. As a sophomore and junior, she assisted thesis students while conducting her own experiments in Associate Professor of Biology Natalie Nannas’ lab. Win is now a student assistant in the same lab, where she investigates knob DNA sequences in maize and yeast.

This year, Win started working nearby at CNY Gynecology Associations and CNY Brain and Spine, where she dictates notes and orders images and tests. She also provides critical translation services for Burmese-speaking patients using medical terminology she learned from YouTube and her mother.

“Being able to work in this field, I know what it means to have a herniated disc or a disc bulge, and so I’m able to properly translate it in Burmese for Burmese patients,” she said, explaining her goal of breaking down language barriers in medicine. Firsthand work in the medical field has shown Win the scarcity of accessible healthcare in lower-socioeconomic status communities.

After she graduates, Win plans to continue her work at local clinics before pursuing a degree in osteopathic medicine. Eventually, she hopes to return to Utica to address the shortage of physicians and specialists in the area and support the community that has inspired her from childhood.

“Engaging with people, learning about their experiences, and understanding them on a personal level resonate more with my professional aspirations,” she said.

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