Zehra Syed - Class of 2018
Hi Z! We heard that you have an artistic flare! How long have you been drawing?
I’ve done simple drawings for a long time, but started devoting time to more complex pieces in high school.
What type of drawings do you do?
I started out drawing and painting lots of different things using several mediums, but have found I enjoy drawing portraits and architectural structures the most.
How did you realize you had a talent and what did you do to polish your technique?
I took AP art in high school and had a teacher who was a good mentor. She helped me realize the potential I had with drawing. I refined those skills in college by taking on more custom work and kept practicing the techniques I picked up in the high school class.
We also heard you have drawn for a celebrity. Could you tell us more about that experience and how it came about?
I have a mutual friend with Tyler Hubbard from Florida Georgia Line. I was asked to draw a photo from their wedding with lyrics of the song used for their first dance so that it could be given as a wedding gift to the couple. It was pretty cool to see an artist I listen to holding my artwork.
What has been your favorite thing to draw?
As frustrating as it can be to get the little details right, I really enjoy drawing portraits of people. Being able to capture someone’s expression and their surroundings can bring a piece to life. The more attention you give to subtle details, the more realistic the portrait becomes.
What advice do you have for anyone wanting to experiment with drawing?
Start out with small objects and really focus on shading techniques. Shading plays a huge role in giving the piece a 3D effect. Take some classes or watch videos to improve those skills and then just keep practicing!
Trey Waltman, Mac Hendrix, Will Wanninger - Class of 2018
Hey guys! We heard you all recently completed a triathlon. What does a triathlon consist of?
This triathlon consisted of a 750-meter swim, 16-mile bike, and a 3-mile run.
What was your reasoning in tackling such as large goal while in dental school?
Trey: The triathlon was something that we all believed would be a lot of fun to participate in. We are all very competitive and enjoy hanging out together outside of school, so it just made sense to do this triathlon.
Mac: Every man needs a challenge. Having something like this prevents being stagnant in personal progress. Whether it be a triathlon, amount of books you want to read in a year, giving more time volunteering, etc., personal challenges like this makes us better people. Also, Wanninger laughed at the idea of me doing a triathlon, and so consequently I signed up within 5 minutes. Trey and Will followed shortly.
Will: I was looking for opportunities to stay fit and competitive, and I thought this would be a fun way to do that.
Training for a triathlon seems tough. How did you physically and mentally prepare yourself while juggling the demands of dental school?
Trey: We decided to participate in the triathlon 4 months prior to the race. The training was not that tough because we are all really active individuals and enjoy being challenged. We decided to meet twice a week in the mornings to train for the swimming portion of the triathlon. We would often meet on the weekends to practice the run and biking portion of the race. My wife also chose to do the race, so she and I would train during the week after school and work. Tackling something like this during dental school was really beneficial, because this allowed us to get our minds off of whatever was going on in school or clinic.
Mac: If you know the three of us well enough, you know we try to manage dental school in a way that it is minimally demanding. We don’t get very worked up about many things. That being said, our schedule this semester was conducive to training. We had every Tuesday and Thursday morning off from class, so we would meet then to run and swim at the rec. On the weekends, Trey and I would often meet to bike and run. Wanninger normally slept in those days. Trey’s wife also signed up to race so the fear of being beat by a (athletic and very competitive) girl was enough mental preparation.
Will: I had to make time for training, whether it was waking up early before school or going to the gym after school. It also helped to do it with a couple of friends. That helped me stay motivated.
What was your favorite part of the experience?
Trey: This is an event that I will always remember because it was my first triathlon. Being able to tackle this triathlon with my wife and best friends was my favorite part by far.
Mac: The comrade from spending so much time together training and competing. There was a lot of trash talking and competition that went on, but we were always sharing training tips and ideas that we would either read about or discover from our own training. It was healthy, friendly, competition and we had a great time. The race itself was a lot of fun because Wanninger shot about 5x the normal dose of pre-workout before the race and we found him zonked out in a gutter about half a mile into the bike leg.
Will: When it was over and knew that my training had paid off.
What advice would you give to other students who are interested in incorporating physical fitness into their dental school life and for those interested in training for a triathlon?
Trey: I believe that it is essential to find something that you enjoy doing outside of dental school. Dental school is great, but it can easily take over your life if you let it. If you have an opportunity to participate is something like this, then I would encourage you to accept the challenge.
Mac: Make exercise a personal priority. Never sacrifice your personal health (whether it be fitness, sleeping, or eating well) for studying, not having enough time, etc. You are not your best self if you aren’t taking care of your body. As far as the triathlon goes specifically, practice joining multiple legs of the race together. Running a 5k or biking 16 miles by itself isn’t that bad, but doing it after you swim 800 m is difficult. However, swimming 750 m by itself is that bad. It sucks. Spend most of your time getting that in shape. And swimming in open water is MUCH different than swimming in a pool. A good bike makes a lot of difference. Either rent a good one or invest in one if triathlons are something you want to do more often.
Will: You can always make excuses as to why this isn’t a good time. You just need a little effort to be motivated to get started. Once you’ve made it a habit, it makes it a lot easier to keep going. This also helps make school a little easier to tackle as it’s a great was to de-stress.
Khushboo Aggarwal - Class of 2018
Hi Khushboo! We heard that you like to cook and bake when you have time! What got you interested in cooking?
I used to hate cooking, My mum would try to teach me when I was growing up in England, but I would always find an excuse not to learn. Eventually, she tricked me into making chappatis (Indian flatbreads) one summer, and I nearly burned the kitchen down. After that I gave up cooking and relied on my Mum to do all the cooking. She’s an amazing cook, who loves trying new things. But unfortunately I never took the opportunity to learn. Then, I moved to the U.S. I really didn’t think I would miss home cooked food. The first few weeks were great, eating out at those restaurants that I would enjoy so much as a kid when I would visit the U.S. Being a vegan when I moved here, I really struggled with finding food I could eat. Indian food didn’t taste the same as home, and I quickly realized I needed to learn! I remember once I was so home sick so I phoned my mum at 8pm which is 2am in London and desperately asked her for the recipe to my favorite Indian dish. From that, I began to learn and became so interested in cooking, flavors and ingredients. I don’t eat eggs so I had to learn to bake cakes too. Tried and tested many recipes until I found the one that tasted the best!
So we see that you like to travel. Where have you visited and what has the food been like there?
I love love love to travel. Going to new places, seeing different cultures and eating different foods is amazing. I have been fortunate enough to travel to many different countries and continents. My favorites have to be: India, because I love learning about my culture, the food is so delicious and the shopping is awesome; Australia, because the sights are so beautiful and Tanzania because it is such a scenic place and it’s where my husband proposed to me, in a safari park.
As a kid, I used to visit America a lot. I have family in most places, but primarily in Chicago. When I moved here, my husband had already visited 50 states before the age of 30, so now it’s my feat to try to do the same. I’m 29 and I’m at 37 states. Hoping to complete the rest before I turn 30 next year!
We know you are originally from England. What has been your favorite part of being in the USA? (besides meeting your husband!)
Oh I have loved so many things. The people! Southern people are so nice. Everyone has been friendly and helpful! I have enjoyed travelling! Each state is so different from each other. I have appreciated all the different cultures and the fact that I am such a foodie, I have thoroughly enjoyed the food and flavors!
Do you have any tips for beginner chefs and bakers?
Try and try again. Don’t be disheartened if it doesn’t turn out the way you imagined or visioned. The best chefs have tried and tested various methods until they got it right. Ask family and friends for recipes of food you’ve enjoyed and then experiment with flavors. With my cakes, I learned to get the basics right, like a basic vanilla sponge before I began experimenting out. I love getting feedback from friends and family. Especially my husband, he’s my biggest fan and critic.
Kevin Bell - Class of 2018
Hi Kevin! We heard that you are expanding your family again! Tell us your favorite part of being a dad.
Cheap labor- my kiddos love to play soccer, jump on the trampoline and swing with me, but they’re also willing to help me with chores around the house. We have fun and take care of responsibilities too. One of the great things about a large family is mutual support.
This is number 5 for you! Are you hoping for a boy or girl? What is your wife hoping for?
Mary Ellen and I are excited about the 5th, but no one is more thrilled than the kids. It’s unanimous - we all want another ‘Bro-Bro’, but we’ll love whoever God gives us.
When you aren’t studying, completing lab work, or preparing for appointments, what is your favorite activity to do with your family?
Forced marching. A hallmark of Marine light infantry (I’ll always be a Marine) is mobility. The most basic form of mobility is using your feet. I let my kids call it hiking, and they love it. We always end up at a beautiful overlook or waterfall, usually with one or two of them on my back.
We’ve heard you like living in Homewood. Tell us why you love raising your family there!
It’s a small town with a warm community, and some great people. They even have a ‘We Love Homewood Day’ festival. We’ve made some really good friends here.
What is your advice for others trying to raise a family or about to raise a family while in dental school?
Learn to operate on much less sleep, buy really potent coffee, never skip leg day, and make sure you and your spouse are fully committed to family during school.