Dr. Amy Hicks: From Researcher to Teacher

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Dr. Amy Hicks in the Cancer Reasearch Lab

There has never been a better time to be a woman in science. In what was once a career field dominated solely by men and their ideas, the study of science has now been broadened to include women. From Marie Curie to Dorothy Vaughan, we celebrate the achievements of women in science, hear their stories and learn from their research. Dr. Amy Hicks, one of the science professors here at BJU, is one of the many women who contributes to science every day and continually inspires students who hope to follow in her footsteps.

Science and Teaching

Before Dr. Hicks was a teacher, she was doing cancer research. “I did not always have the intention of being a teacher,” she said. “I really thought I would go into medical school, but various circumstances in life worked out so that I lost interest in doing that and pursued graduate school instead.” She went on to get a master’s degree in public health, which is how she came to start teaching classes at BJU like Public Health and Global Health, as well as Biochemistry.

She said, “[Teaching] has definitely been a growing experience. My previous work was in cancer research, so coming here and working with students is very different. It’s a different way of viewing things. You have to figure out how students learn, how they understand and help them make connections for themselves. I feel like even though teaching wasn’t my original plan, the Lord worked things out so that I would be able to come here and fulfill the role He had for me. … By coming here and teaching to students, [I realized] all my training was designed for a purpose, even though I didn’t know what that purpose was.”

Science and Christianity

One of the hardest concepts to reconcile in today’s day and age is the ever-growing divide between science and Christianity. For many in the world, science and faith are unable to coincide. However, as a science faculty member at a Christian school, Dr. Hicks has had to forge a middle ground between the two.

“For me, I’d say grad school did, to some degree, test my faith,” she admitted. “You are suddenly hearing people say things in a very authoritative way that if you went to a Christian school all your life, especially back then [when] we didn’t have evolution class like biology majors do now, it makes you feel a little bit shaky at first. But I had to understand that science is always someone’s best way of fitting the available evidence. So, that interpretation, no matter what kind of science you’re in, is going to be based on, to some degree, on someone’s worldview and biases and preconceptions. That means that evolution is also based on a worldview. It is the best fit without God, if we agree that there was no Creator.”

Science and Faith

As for the most important aspect of a career in science, Dr. Hicks claims it might not be entirely about science at all. “I think what God has taught me is that we have these high ambitions for what we think we want to do and how important it could be. God has much, much higher ambitions for us than we do. God’s highest ambition for me is to be like Christ. To show the fruits of the Spirit in my dealings with other people.”

She continues on by saying that the verses she tries to emphasize in her classes are Matthew 12:30–31, where Jesus responds to a Pharisee saying that the two greatest commandments are to love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself. Dr. Hicks also said there doesn’t need to be a desperate pursuit of a career, either. Instead, everyone should be in desperate pursuit of Christ. “Everything else will fall in line,” she assured. “And you’ll be where he needs for you to be.”

Is it any easier to be on fire for Christ in a Christian environment like Bob Jones? According to Dr. Hicks, not necessarily. “Wherever you are, you’re always going to be struggling with, first and foremost, with your own sin nature, your own ambitions, idols of your heart. We can never rely on our environments to make or break our relationship with the Lord.”

Science and Missions

For the past few years, Dr. Hicks has also been using her skills to go on summer missions trips. She has been taking a team of students who specialize in health education to go with a group called Medical Missions Outreach. Last summer they went to the Ivory Coast, and this summer they’re going to Kenya. She takes a group that is more specialized in health education. After a patient sees a doctor or a nurse and is diagnosed with a health problem, he or she goes to them, and Dr. Hicks and her team educates them on how to manage that health problem, how they can avoid it in the future and how they should eat or exercise. She added, “When we can, on certain special cases that need extra help, we’re able to connect them with local churches there that are able to hopefully follow up and help them even more.”

Science and Women

Though it may come as a surprise, Dr. Hicks does not believe she has faced discrimination for being a woman. She said, “Maybe a generation or more before me, women were much more a minority in science. But now, if you go to grad school, you’re still going to see a majority of students are women. There’s no barrier to women getting into science anymore. And I don’t think I’ve ever identified any of my causes as being a woman. Just do the best you can and respect men, respect women, and expect that they will respect you, too. So I don’t know if I’ve ever really thought of myself as being held back in science. I don’t think I’m of the generation that can say that.

“But obviously [no matter who you are], if you’re going to spend your life pursuing science, it needs to be something you’re passionate about, that you love. It’s the same career advice you might give to anybody else. Science involves a lot of work, it’s a lot of commitment, so you need to love it. But, my advice would always be to have a questioning, curious mind, to be a problem-solver. To keep asking questions and not settle for the first answer.”