“If I don’t hit the moon, I still hit the stars”: Graduating UAB biomedical engineering student with a passion to help others is not done achieving

UAB biomedical engineering major Yancey Williams II will graduate from the UAB with a bright future April 29.

Yancey Williams IIYancey Williams II
Photo credit: UAB Honors College
Yancey Williams II, a biomedical engineering major, says his journey at the University of Alabama at Birmingham started earlier than most with what he describes as a foundational start to his love for STEM.

“When I was about 12, my mom enrolled me in the CORD Summer Science Institute here at UAB, which is a youth summer camp program,” Williams said. “Those experiences really cultivated my interest in the sciences, and I did a camp here every summer all the way through high school.”

Now a graduating senior preparing to walk the stage at commencement, the Birmingham native and only child of two teachers, has spent the last four years learning more about science, himself and what impact he wants to leave on the world.

“I came to UAB knowing I wanted to learn as much about the world as I could,” Williams stated. “I wanted to meet people and learn about their backgrounds and experiences because I always felt that the knowledge you can gain from people is how we better shape the world and our futures.”

A Blazing Leader

To accomplish his personal mission, Williams did not hesitate to serve as a leader in the UAB community, joining multiple organizations and going on to take on leadership roles over the course of his undergraduate matriculation.

Williams is a member of the UAB Honors College and has held multiple positions on the Honors College Leadership Council, where he has served as a freshmen representative and is currently vice president. He has served as the communications chair for the Science and Technology Honors Program. He is also the current vice president of the Biomedical Engineering Society and is a member of the UAB Engineering Ambassadors and Blazer Male Excellence Network.

Having learned much about himself in the process, Williams confirms serving as a student leader comes with many life lessons he will take into the future.

Inside Yancey Arctic 1In December of 2022, Williams attended the UAB expedition to the Antarctic.“Two things I learned are that differences can be used to unify others and responsibility is key,” Williams said. “I realized that holding myself accountable and making sure others could see that is an essential trait any leader must have, because leading by example benefits everyone.”

Williams is a recipient of numerous academic scholarships and fellowships. He is a UAB Honors College presidential fellow. He was a UAB PARAdiGM – Preparation for Graduate and Medical Education recipient, which is UAB’s NIH/NHLBI R25-funded summer program for outstanding undergraduates from disadvantaged and underrepresented minority backgrounds. He is also a recipient of the Jo Anne J. Trow Undergraduate Scholarship from Alpha Lambda Delta, the Honor Society for First-Year Academic Success. Williams was one of 50 recipients across the country selected to receive the award.

“I value every experience because these opportunities have come with many affirmations about not only myself but what I am capable of,” Williams said.

In the summer of 2022, Williams was a Yale BioMed Amgen Scholars Program recipient. The program is a prestigious research-intensive summer training program in biomedical research for undergraduate students.

“I was able to perform clinical research where we analyzed ways to improve hemodialysis for humans by working with mice models,” Williams said.

At the end of the fall 2022 semester, Williams was one of the lucky UAB students granted the opportunity to venture to Antarctica as a part of an expedition among UAB Department of Biology faculty.

“It was such a surreal experience, almost unreal,” Williams said. “You can see pictures of Antarctica; but seeing the beauty in person, from the landscapes to the penguins, is incomparable.”

Williams is also the 2023 undergraduate recipient of the UAB President's Diversity Champion Award.

The President's Diversity Champion Award recognizes significant achievements of faculty, staff and students toward developing a more diverse, equitable and inclusive university community.

A Legacy of Excellence

Inside Yancey green blazerThe BMEN Green Blazer of Excellence, the group’s highest honor, is awarded to one graduating senior annually. Williams (center-left), joins a long line of successful young men to recieve the award, including former Honors College member and 2022 UAB graduate, Nore Hodge (center-right).
Photography: Brian Pride Photography
Among the various organizations and awards Williams has received, he states being awarded the Green Blazer of Excellence, the highest honor in the BMEN organization, is the one that means the most to him.

“Getting involved with BMEN my freshman year and eventually becoming a mentor, it meant so much to me to be honored with the most prestigious award in the program from an organization that holds so much weight in my heart,” Williams said. “BMEN allowed me to connect and build community among people I shared similar experiences with, and I can truly say I cherish the bonds I made with everyone I’ve come in contact with.”

Williams received his green blazer at the BMEN 15th Anniversary Awards Dinner on Feb. 18. The Green Blazer of Excellence is awarded to one graduating senior annually.

The BMEN Peer Mentoring Program is designed to provide academic and social support to Black male students entering UAB. BMEN strives to improve the quality of life for new students by connecting them with an upperclassman mentor with the goal of increasing retention and graduation rates and promoting success in and out of the classroom.

Onward and Upward

“I see UAB as an extension of myself,” Williams said. “UAB offers many opportunities to grow on a personal level, while providing a quality educational environment that lays the foundation for our futures.”

Interested in a major in the department of engineering? Use UAB’s Find your degree portal to learn more.

Williams encourages incoming and current freshman students to not be dismayed when they encounter limitations on their collegiate journey, but to accept their lows with their highs.

“I had to learn to accept that I’m not going to accomplish every goal and it’s OK to have failures,” he said. “I realized that, even if I don’t hit the moon, I still hit the stars. It’s OK to need help or guidance, and it’s important to recognize how far you’ve come and appreciate the moment and value in what you have achieved.”

After commencement, Williams will prepare to transition to New Haven, Connecticut, where he will attend Yale School of Medicine in the fall as a member of the Medical Scientist Training Program pursuing his dual M.D.-Ph.D. in biomedical engineering. With full tuition covered, Williams seeks to one day become a physician-scientist in the field of cardiology, providing comprehensive care to patients and performing life-changing clinical research. Williams will graduate with High Distinguished Honors on April 29.