ASU applied biological sciences major graduates at 18, starts medical school in July

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2021 graduates.

Nathan Reed, of Gilbert, Arizona, is graduating from Arizona State University’s Polytechnic campus with a Bachelor of Science in applied biological sciences — and admission to medical school at age 18.

Reed, who was able to accelerate his K–12 learning through a homeschool co-op, began taking dual enrollment classes at ASU during his final two years of high school and then started classes in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts full time in fall 2019, supported financially with a New American University Scholar — Provost's Award. 

He is graduating summa cum laude and has been recognized with the Moeur Award, having completed his studies with a 4.0 GPA in no more than four years’ time.  

Reed has also already gained acceptance to A.T. Still University’s School of Osteopathic Medicine.

“I had the privilege of meeting the dean of the school, Dr. Jeffrey Morgan, when I was 16, and he helped me realize that I had the potential to be accepted to medical school at 18,” said Reed. “I am so honored to have been offered a spot in their Class of 2025 and am looking forward to beginning my educational journey in medical school this July.”

Reed’s eagerness to begin the next step toward a career in medicine is deeply rooted in wanting to begin the specialized training he needs to make a difference in the lives of others.    

“My older sister has a terminal genetic syndrome called Sanfilippo, which makes her extremely medically fragile,” he said. “She had an experimental treatment done using my bone marrow to try and extend her life expectancy. Because of this, I spent quite a bit of time as a child in hospitals, listening to specialists and observing different physicians. It was through this experience that I first realized I wanted to become a doctor.  

“I am very active in the special needs community and I have seen the need they have for developmental pediatricians,” he continued. “The need is so great that there are families on a waiting list to get on the actual wait list. I really want to give back to the community that my family has been a part of for almost two decades.” 

His applied biological sciences coursework has also piqued his interest in internal medicine, particularly the human microbiome and gut health.

“I learned so many interesting things in ABS 452: Commercial Applications of Fermentation with Dr. Holly Huffman. I was fascinated with the digestive system,” Reed said. “The area that resonated with me the most was learning about the importance of having a healthy microbiota in the gastrointestinal tract, and that has made me consider a focus on internal medicine.

“During my time at ASU I’ve learned from some excellent professors, made some great friends, and created lasting memories,” said Reed. 

He shared these additional reflections about his ASU journey.  

Question: Why did you choose ASU?

Answer: I chose ASU because my father is an alumnus and I always enjoyed hearing stories about his time at ASU. Family is an important thing for me, so when choosing a college I was interested in finding one that allowed me to maintain a strong connection with my family, and as an Arizona native, ASU was a perfect fit. 

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU and what was it?

 A: I took ABS 370: Ecology with Dr. Steven Saul. He showed me that there are often two sides to every argument. One side is not necessarily wrong and the other side is right, but there can be truth in both sides. So it’s important to do your own research and analyze both sides of an argument to formulate the best viewpoint.

Q: Did you have any internships, student worker positions, or research experiences that were important to you?

A: I did a lab internship with Professor Vikram Kodibagkar in which I learned a lot about the research process and how to function as a member of a team. It was also very challenging, and working with him I discovered that I have a lot to learn about myself regarding perseverance and self-confidence.

Q: What is the best piece of advice you would give to those still in college or wanting to gain admission to medical school?

A: My advice to other students wanting to pursue the field of medicine would be to not give up. As a pre-med student, I was frequently told how difficult it is to be to accepted into medical school, especially in my case at the age of 18. Instead of letting this discourage me, I chose to let it motivate me to achieve my goal of becoming a doctor by the time I am 22 years old. I would also tell them to keep an open mind and explore areas that might be of interest. 

Q: What was your favorite place to be at ASU, whether for studying, meeting friends, or just thinking about life?

A: The library on the Polytechnic campus was my favorite place. It was a great place to study with friends and get some quiet time when I needed to focus. It also had additional resources such as the anatomical models that I could use for references on assignments. I also enjoyed swimming laps at the Sun Devil Fitness pool in between study sessions. I used it as a way to keep healthy along with taking mental breaks.  

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would work toward ending world hunger by investing in projects that would provide ways to sustainably grow and produce food. I would focus on using methods that would reduce food waste and water consumption and run on clean energy. By making food more readily available with larger, pesticide-free yields, I would also like to partner with community outreach programs in urban areas and inner cities and provide excess produce to distribute to the residents, helping to bring nutrition to the country’s food deserts. 

Maureen Roen
maureen.roen@asu.edu