MCB student graduate after five semesters

Portrait of Kelly Roth, Greek of the Week

By Bridget Hynes

When Kelly Roth graduates with a bachelor’s degree in molecular and cellular biology in December, she will be 19 years old. Roth, who is also a member of the University’s chapter of Sigma Kappa, transferred to the University in fall 2012 and will finish attaining her degree in five semesters.

According to Dr. Michel Bellini, professor in the school of Molecular and Cellular Biology, graduating early is very difficult for any MCB student to do and “almost impossible,” for transfer students.

“I have seen transfer students leaving MCB early,” Bellini said. “I do not think I have seen any graduate early.”

Roth, although only 19, is considered a transfer student because she was enrolled at Kankakee Community College from age 15 to 17 and was simultaneously home-schooled by her mom. She came into her first year at the University with 56 hours of credit acquired through her community college and had all but two of her general education requirements completed. 

Roth said her family decided that she and her twin brother, Karl Roth, sophomore in Engineering, would be home-schooled for high school because the schools in her area were smaller and less academically stimulating. Being home-schooled gave her more time to focus on gymnastics, an activity she was involved in since the age of 2. As a member of the Flippin’ Illini Women’s club gymnastics team, Roth continues to pursue the sport in her free time.

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However, free time is not something Roth has much of. In addition to being involved with her sorority and gymnastics, she is also president of both the MCB Leaders organization and Tau Sigma, the transfer student honors society. She also does research in the University’s Human Memory and Cognition Lab and in November, she founded her own Registered Student Organization called “Fitness for the Ages.” The club of ten travels to Manor Care Assisted Living Center every other Saturday to run a fitness session for residents.  

As for how she balances all of her activities, Roth said it is all about hard work. 

“I’ll set a goal, and I’ll work however hard it takes to reach that goal,” she said. 

For Roth, the hard work starts at about 8 a.m. on school days, when she wakes up to either finish homework or go to class. Her biggest secret to success in school is staying after class to make sure she understands the notes she has taken that day. If she does not understand something, she talks to the professor so that she does not have to cram for exams.

“She is incredibly hardworking,” Karl said. “If she see’s a challenge, she will tackle it, she won’t give up. I think that is probably her best trait.”

Karl, like Roth, will also graduate early, but in May 2015. According to Karl, the siblings, who have been “basically glued at the hip” their entire lives, have had an opportunity to branch out in college, although they both live in Presby Hall together. 

Roth plans to apply to medical school this summer and hopes to be accepted to one in Chicago. She has known she wanted to be a doctor since kindergarten, partly because she has been around the medical field her entire life, she said. Her father, Dr. Gary Roth, 1971 University alumnus, is an emergency room physician and her mother is a retired ICU nurse. For Roth, performing surgery holds the greatest appeal. 

“From all of the doctors that I’ve shadowed, I’ve always thought that the surgery portion was fascinating. You can change someone so much, you can fix their back problems through surgery or fix their hearing through surgery. I think it’s all about how you can help the person,” she said. 

She admits being in classes with students years older than her has been a little different, but Roth said all it took was a little adjusting and she was able to find friends and make study groups. 

“I have a lot of support from my sorority sisters and friends from my clubs,” she said. 

Although she said she is sad to be leaving these friends, especially those in Sigma Kappa, she is very excited to graduate after five semesters at the University. 

“I’m happy to be getting things done because medical school and residency will take up so much of my time,” Roth said. “I know I’ve made really strong friendships here that will last even though I’m moving on from the University.”

Bridget can be reached at [email protected].