Headshot of U N E alumni Tyler Vunk

Tyler Vunk

English Neuroscience

Academic Freedom

As a neuroscience major, I was looking for a way to stand out among other medical school applicants. I decided that the easiest way to get to the top of the overachiever pile was to adopt a second major — English.

I soon realized that my second major brought balance to my academic life. My English professors challenged me to back up my arguments, sharpening my research and writing skills, and gave me the space to safely experiment with both formal and colloquial forms of communication. This made me seek out hour-long conversations during office hours and design and take as many independent studies as possible. 

While my neuroscience courses were essential, my English courses — or more specifically the writing, speaking, and communication skills I gained in these courses — helped set me apart from other applicants. There are a lot of one-trick science ponies out there. Having a strong humanities background makes you gallop a bit faster.

Three years after graduation, I was the CEO of Vested Academics — a college planning and student coaching company. I focus on helping students improve their college readiness and avoid overpaying for their degrees. The skills I learned in my English courses have served me well.

Hands-On Learning

I was a research student for three-plus years in Dr. Ling Cao's neuroimmunology lab and co-authored a research review piece with Dr. Kristen Burkholder over a summer. Located on the UNE campus, these labs gave me the opportunity to perform professional scientific research, get published, and better understand the level of discipline one needs in order to succeed as a professional scientist.

Working with Dr. Jennifer Tuttle over one summer, I was able to perform an exploratory investigation of the narrative writing style. This experience not only generally strengthened my writing skills but also allowed me to develop my listening skills—actually hearing what people were saying, beyond their words. In fact, it's a skill I use every day, whether speaking with vendors, employees, or clients. I remain grateful for the opportunity that both Dr. Tuttle and the UNE English Department offered me.