UT grads making most of a difficult situation

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- This is usually a busy time on the UT Campus, Spring time, with students bustling about and some of them even taking time to smell the flowers. Graduating seniors like Emily Schulman who says, " We really wanted to get the pictures with the famous tulips. It almost made me cry and I want to get choked up again because she's been my rock in engineering and all my friends, it's a really special time."

Classmate and fellow Biomedical Engineering major Tessa Brooks adds, "We may not have had our normal graduation, but we can still come out here with our cap and gowns on and take pictures and still be able to look back on it."

The Coronavirus has shut things down and that includes all activities inside Thompson-Boling Arena. Activities which include things like concerts and yes, commencement services. It's a time in which students are filled with pride. Graduation and the annual right of passage allowing them to be recognized for their hard work and a job well done. Only this year, the pomp and circumstance has been put on pause.

That was tough to accept says Microbiology major Laura Altawil, "I went through a whirlwind of emotions when I first heard that. Obviously I was so upset because all of seniors have worked so hard over the past few years, but it's really nice that this is happening during a time where we have internet so we have quick, easy access to information. We're all able to stay in touch with each other all of the students, so we've been getting through it."

Laura is scheduled to continue her postgraduate work in New York, but even that's cause for anxiety given the uncertainty in that region right now, "I'll be going to NYU for dental school and I've been wondering what's gonna happen with that. We're supposed to start in July, but with over half the cases there, cases in general increasing so rapidly none of us are sure if our grad schools will start on time, if our internships will be able to continue, so we're really anxious about the future."

Like Laura, fellow seniors Tessa and Emily are also going to continue their education elsewhere, and at least for now, missing out on the memories of commencement services, but not on the opportunity of trying to help out a country in crisis.

"So we're actually in a drug delivery class in our senior year and we were tasked with trying to find a disease or the like to try and cure and this was back in January before Coronavirus got big. It was just in China. We decided, let's try and treat that. It seems like a thing that's happening in the time so let's try and do that," said Brooks.

Schulman added, "We were thinking would happen if the T-Cells would activate to help the body fight the disease, it wouldn't progress into pneumonia and some of the other issues people are facing which is leading to the severe cases. It's crazy that we're trying to solve that problem , but it's awesome that the University of Tennessee and the engineering program let's us do things like that."

Graduation or not, these ladies are ready to commence with the next stage of their lives taking with them memories for lifetime.