Huang graduates with two degrees while tracing COVID-19 with ADPH

Tyler Huang graduates from UAB with a Bachelor of Science degree in neuroscience and a Master of Science degree in multidisciplinary biomedical sciences with a concentration in neuroscience. He is part of one of the first cohorts finishing an Accelerated Bachelor’s to Master’s.

Videography: Andrea Reiber, Steve Wood, Andrea Mabry, Carson Young and Laura Gasque

Like a lot of people, Tyler Huang’s life plan was changed by the pandemic.

Huang is graduating from the University of Alabama at Birmingham this spring with a Bachelor of Science degree in neuroscience and a Master of Science degree in multidisciplinary biomedical sciences with a concentration in neuroscience, as part of one of the first cohorts finishing an Accelerated Bachelor’s to Master’s. He is in the UAB Honors College University Honors Program

UAB will host in-person commencement at Legion Field on April 30, May 1

All 2020 graduates and spring 2021 graduates are invited to participate. Students must register to walk by April 16; register here.

His plan was to finish his undergraduate career, apply to medical school and start the long journey of his medical education. A first-generation student in the United States, his parents immigrated to the United States from China at right about the age he is now. But this year, living through COVID-19 helped him reflect on his values and on what he really hopes to accomplish in his career, he says.

Since 2020, Huang has been a COVID-19 lead case investigator and contact tracer with the Alabama Department of Public Health and UAB School of Public Health. Managing a team of contact investigators, he also conducts patient investigation interviews via telephone on assigned COVID-19 cases within the state of Alabama. He identifies and communicates with close contacts of these cases and enters the information in the ADPH state database.

Instead of applying to med school, Huang will take a gap year first — to continue working for ADPH and in the public health sector in Alabama. He will focus on COVID mitigation strategies; he also plans to study vaccine distribution processes within the state and how communities in Alabama, and across the Deep South, respond to the rapidly changing guidelines given by the CDC to curb the effects of this pandemic. 

Huang is originally from Fayette, Alabama. For the last two years, he has been a volunteer at a student-run, free clinic for the medically underserved, Equal Access Birmingham. Health literacy and education are important to him. He also helped UAB develop the B Well app to help students manage their mental health and wellness.

Accelerated Learning at UAB

UAB offers several options for high-achieving undergraduates to accelerate the time and cost necessary to complete both their undergraduate and graduate degrees. Learn more about and apply to Accelerated Bachelor’s/Master’s programs and Fast-Track programs.

“I hope in this next year we can reach the tail end of this pandemic and I can matriculate into medical school next summer,” Huang said.

Wrapping up his academic involvements includes his role as student body president and finalizing his senior thesis examining socioeconomic disparities in pain perception under the mentorship of Burel Goodin, Ph.D., in the College of Arts and SciencesDepartment of Psychology. He will walk for commencement and is “beyond ecstatic that UAB will be having an in-person graduation ceremony.”

“Walking in this year’s commencement is truly a testament to the valiant efforts put forth by the student body at UAB,” Huang said. “It is because of them that we can have this ceremony conducted in a safe manner. I am so proud of all the guidelines all my peers have abided by, and because of that, we are able to have this celebratory end-of-year experience.”

This is a ceremony of many firsts for Huang and his family: He will be the first in the family to graduate from college as a traditional student, and the first to receive a graduate degree.

“My mom, dad and my younger sister, Emily, all plan to come and share this special moment with me,” Huang said. “They have truly been my support system through all of this, and I could not be more grateful.”

Huang’s honors and awards at UAB:

  • Recipient of the Regions Endowed Scholarship, UAB’s premier undergraduate merit scholarship covering full tuition, living expenses and research grants for four years
  • Student representative to the University of Alabama Board of Trustees
  • UAB institutional nominee for the Rhodes Scholarship
    Honors College Presidential Summer Research Fellowship recipient
  • Undergraduate nominee for the UAB Blazer Way Award
    UAB Undergraduate Research Exposition: First Place in Social/Behavioral Sciences, Poster Presentation
  • One of six students, and the only freshman, selected for 2018 Honors Summer Neuroscience Academy, Department of Neurobiology
  • Co-directed and produced short documentary film “What Brings You in Today?”
  • Student body president, executive vice president, executive cabinet member in the UAB Undergraduate Student Government Association
  • UAB Trailblazer, UAB Green Team, University Research Ambassador, Honors Mentor
  • Social Media intern
  • Top 5 finalist for the 2018 Mr. and Ms. UAB Scholarship Competition