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Standing on the shoulders of giants

Honored Graduating Student: Benton Tullis (PDBio)
When COVID-19 canceled their marathon, Benton and Madeleine Tullis (‘21) decided to run their own. They woke up at 5:30 a.m., made their own medals out of wood, and invited family and friends to cheer them on as they crossed the “finish line” at Utah Lake. Both students are set to graduate this April from the BYU College of Life Sciences, Benton as a physiology and developmental biology major, and his wife, Madeleine, as a biology education major. Their love of adventure and strong ability to problem-solve (even in a pandemic!) will aid them as Benton heads off to medical school in the fall.

Benton Tullis

“I've always kind of wanted to be a physician. It started at a young age,” Benton says. “My dad’s an emergency room doctor, and growing up, I was fascinated with his knowledge.” Ophthalmology is a field that caught Benton’s eye, although he is open to anything that has a mix of surgical work and patient interaction. Currently waitlisted or accepted at half a dozen different universities across the country, the Tullises have an open future.

Benton grew up in Spokane, WA, and loves the outdoors. He and Madeleine spend as much time as possible visiting Utah’s National Parks or enjoying nature. The two of them met in freshmen housing, then headed to the MTC together and even boarded the same flight to Europe—her to Sweden, him to Germany. After their missions, they were married in the Salt Lake City temple.

Benton’s favorite thing about being a BYU student is volunteering at a Volunteer Care Clinic for uninsured people living in Utah County. “It made me really excited. I got to be in the room with the provider, taking notes and seeing them help these people,” Benton says. “It's just cool to see . . . the good we can do, especially when serving those communities that are underserved.” He also works with a Y Serve group called Gym Kids, going once a week to play with and peer mentor kids who have learning disabilities or those who are statistically unlikely to attend college.

Benton Tullis

Additionally, Benton has been part of a lung and placenta research lab with Dr. Juan Arroyo and Dr. Paul Reynolds. While his work mainly focuses on the placenta, he has participated in research that includes the study of gestational diabetes and insulin, preeclampsia, and IUGR (intrauterine growth restriction). The team’s work has led to the publication of four papers. Working in the lab helped Benton get his feet wet and bond with his professors, something he suggests all life science majors should do. “It's been a great experience for me because I've been able to be a part of the research process and see how an idea gets turned into a grant, and then how you make an experiment from it,” he says. “Sometimes it doesn't work the first ten times you do it, and then finally, at the eleventh time, you get it to work. And it's a great feeling.”

Whether Benton ends up in Tampa, FL, or back in his home state of Washington, he is excited to discover his passion and specialize in medical school. Looking back on his early days in the physiology and developmental biology major, Benton is grateful for the times he pushed through the difficult classes with the support of his professors. His love of service and desire to always learn powered him through four years of long labs and tricky concepts.

“If you go on Google Scholar, it says, ‘We stand on the shoulders of giants.’ And I just believe that even more,” Benton says. "It takes so much energy and so much work to learn just one simple thing. And I just appreciate the knowledge we have so much more than I used to.”