Amazing Students

Terry McHugh

Terry McHugh (Photo by Chad Osburn/UGA)

Terry McHugh’s path at UGA has taken him from a neuroscience lab on campus to Walter Reed Medical Center, all leading to his goal to serve others as a doctor. There also was a lot of boat rowing along the way.


Athens, Georgia

High school: 

Clarke Central High School

Current employment: 

For the past two years, I have worked as a technician at Horizon Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation, an outpatient orthopedic clinic located in Watkinsville, Georgia. As a tech, I’ve gotten a lot of great experience working in a clinical rehabilitation setting, and my time at Horizon continues to play a role in molding my plans for the future. I have enjoyed having the opportunity to work closely with a wonderful group of patients, as well as our four physical therapists on staff. The clinic always has a lively and welcoming atmosphere, and that makes work a lot more fun for me!

Additionally, I am employed remotely as a per diem contractor by The Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine. Occasionally, my team at the Center for Rehabilitation Sciences Research will send me small tasks to work on from Athens. Through this position, I have also been able to remain involved in the composition and revision of research manuscripts that I contributed to during my internship with the foundation.

Family ties to UGA: 

My father, Joseph, is a professor in the Department of Entomology here at UGA, where he teaches graduate level courses on insect systematics. Having been born and raised in Athens, my youth was closely intertwined with the UGA community (our high school swim team practiced in the Ramsey Center), so it has always felt like home to me. I’m the first person in my family to attend UGA as a student, so I will take full responsibility for converting my relatives into diehard Bulldog fans!

Expected graduation: 

Spring 2019

Degree objective:

B.S.Ed. in exercise and sport science

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

I will be forever appreciative of the people who have supported me throughout my college career, as well as in the years leading up to it. None of the experiences or achievements listed below would have been possible without the love and support of a group too large to list exhaustively. To all of the family, friends, mentors, colleagues and educators in my life over the years – I owe this section to you.

Upon arriving on campus my freshman year, I joined the club rowing team. It was undoubtedly one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Immediately after joining, I was welcomed into a diverse team of over 100 students. My teammates came from all different backgrounds, ranged in age from 17 to 26, and represented several different majors and programs on campus. Despite this, once you put any eight of us in a boat, everyone functioned as part of a single unit, which was a lot of fun to be a part of. The team’s recruiting slogan reads “instant family, just add water,” and as corny as that may sound, I think it was accurate. The friendships that I have made through the team have been some of the strongest and most impactful of my life. If you can believe it, practicing on a lake in 30 degrees at 5 a.m. is a great way of bonding with people.

Early in my time at UGA, I was considering adding a minor program of study in entomology. My sophomore year, I had an internship in the Georgia Museum of Natural History under E. Richard Hoebeke. My primary job was to transcribe the collection data of preserved butterflies and moths into an online database. Our team at UGA is part of a larger bioinformatics project that aims to database specimens from several institutions worldwide. In doing this, researchers hope to be able to identify trends in species prevalence, geographic data and more. After my semester as an intern, I was hired as a student employee for a summer, where I also had the opportunity to database specimens for a separate project that dealt with beetles in the Monotomidae family.

I have been involved with the College of Education’s peer mentor program since the spring of 2018. Over the past year, I have had the pleasure of working with two wonderful students who were new to UGA’s campus. Together, we have worked to make their transition to Athens as smooth and pleasant as possible. My mentees seem to be flourishing in their new environment, and I’m happy to know that I may have played a small positive role in their college experience.

The summer after my junior year, I accepted a research internship with The Henry M. Jackson Foundation. Specifically, my internship was with the Center for Rehabilitation Sciences Research, which is located on the campus of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Walter Reed is considered the flagship hospital of the U.S. Armed Forces and is well known for its expertise in treatment of service members who have suffered complex traumatic injuries. For my internship, I chose to focus on the improvement of rehabilitation practice for individuals with limb loss. Over the course of the summer, I had the opportunity to get involved with several active research projects, including studies examining the efficacy of using mobile applications as a gait-training tool for individuals with lower-extremity limb loss and observational studies designed to assess the durability and usability of new prosthetic devices.

My final project for the summer involved initiating the composition of a case series on osseointegration, a type of direct-skeletal prosthetic-attachment interface that is newly available in the United States and under evaluation by the Department of Defense. Our team is currently revising the manuscript and hopes to publish our findings this spring. Working with the CRSR was undoubtedly the most rewarding experience I have had in my life thus far, and the service members whom I interacted with in my time at Walter Reed were some of the most inspiring people I have ever encountered. I am incredibly thankful to my center director, Col. (Ret.) Paul Pasquina, M.D., my program manager, Jerika Taylor, and my mentor, Kiara Buccellato. Without this team lending support to all of my endeavors, none of this would have been possible.

For the past year, I have also worked under Tarkesh Singh in the kinesiology department as an undergraduate research assistant in the Sensorimotor Neuroscience Laboratory. This spring, I was fortunate to receive a research assistantship from CURO to help support our research in the lab. Along with my colleague Ryan Chen, I have been working on a study investigating the perception process in humans. Specifically, we are trying to identify which types of sensory afferent neurons are involved in the perception of an unknown object’s weight and length. Ryan and I are also involved in another active study that aims to examine the difference in kinematic data before and after a movement intervention that was administered to professional dancers.

My time on campus has also included involvement in the Rho Tau Pre-Physical Therapy Club and the Catholic Center at UGA.

I chose to attend UGA because …

On paper, there was a ton for me to love about UGA as a prospective student. Georgia offered ample opportunities for undergraduate research, a well-rounded and talented student body, and one of the most respected kinesiology programs in the country. The Zell Miller Scholarship that is offered for in-state students was also a huge draw. However, what really sealed the deal for me was going on a campus tour during a weekday. Walking through the quads and buildings, it was hard to not notice how joyful and vibrant all of the students seemed. It was drastically different from any other school that I visited in my college search, and by the end of my visit, I knew that UGA would be the school for me.

My favorite things to do on campus are … 

During the week, I like to blow off steam by lifting weights at Pound Hall on the Health Sciences Campus. I enjoy Pound because it reminds me a lot of the gym that I used throughout high school. The gym seems to have its own small community, and you often find yourself training alongside the same people from day to day.

My other favorite activity on campus is going to the dining halls for a meal. I’ve been told I have an unusually large appetite, and my parents swear that I saved money by staying on the seven-day meal plan for all four years of my college career. I can frequently be found in the Village Summit dining commons, where in my opinion, they have the best variety of food on campus. The Village Summit is also home to two of my favorite people on campus, Ms. Judy Groner and Ms. Sabrina Brown. Each time I see these wonderful ladies, they always go out of their way to give me a hug and ask how my day is going. In the midst of a busy finals week or a rough day, those hugs and kind words never fail to improve my attitude. I’m very glad to know them!

When I have free time, I like … 

… spending time with my roommates. I think that living with other folks creates a unique type of friendship between people. This is especially true when you live in a small space with several large people, like I have. Without having a choice, you have to see each other at your best and worst, and those shared experiences only bring you closer together. I’m fortunate to have had great company by my side throughout my time at UGA.

To Michael Wyatt, Jacob Harrod, Raphael Bryan, Ben Tonks and Keith Gluodenis: You guys are the best. Thank you for a great four years!

The craziest thing I’ve done is … 

For spring break of my junior year, my Uncle Roman, known by the Filipino side of my family simply as “Tito,” offered to have my cousin and me tag along with him on a trip to Europe. While there, he was planning to meet several of his friends from college and work over the years. Long story short, in the nine days of spring break, we managed to travel through Italy, Austria, Germany and France. On both ends of the transatlantic flights, we also spent a few evenings around New York City. Tito’s itinerary was so packed, some nights we simply slept on a train or bus in transit to our next stop, rather than staying in a hostel or apartment. Highlights of the trip included eating the best steak of my life in Florence, skiing the Alps in Innsbruck, and getting horribly lost at the hands of our phone GPS in Venice (you can’t walk across a canal like you can with a street). All the while, we had Tito’s friends to act as local guides, showing us the best hidden gems of each city. It was a surreal experience, and I enjoyed every second of the trip. However, it wasn’t a very restful break at all; I arrived back home at 4 a.m. on the following Monday, just in time to grab a quick nap before heading to my first class.

My favorite place to study is … 

More often than anywhere else, you can find me studying in the peace of my desk at my house. This is especially true during finals week or other times in the semester when I really need to hunker down and be productive. However, when I need a change in scenery or want to study in a more collaborative environment, I can most often be found in the main library. On each floor, there are a few desks next to the windows that overlook Sanford Stadium and South Campus. These are undoubtedly my favorite spots to study on campus. The view is beautiful, and I always find it strangely humbling. The sprawling landscape of campus provides a heavy dose of perspective, and it makes you realize that as a student at UGA, you are part of something much larger than any individual college career could ever reflect.

My favorite professor is … 

In my four years at Georgia, I have found the vast majority of my instructors to be fantastic. However, I am extremely thankful for a few professors who were especially notable to me.

My freshman year, I had the pleasure of taking an introductory religion course with Karla Evans. Her class was probably the single most eye-opening course I have had in my time at UGA. Most memorably, as part of Ms. Evans’ course, we were required to visit a mosque, a synagogue and a Christian church. For each visit, we were immersed into another culture for a few hours, and oftentimes we shared a meal with the community. I thought it was incredibly interesting to interact with people of each faith, who came from all different walks of life. The course definitely widened my worldview, and I will always remember it fondly for the unique experiences it provided.

For the past year, I have worked closely with Tarkesh Singh in the Department of Kinesiology. In his biomechanics class, Dr. Singh employed several practices that encouraged learning through a cooperative environment with our peers. I really enjoyed this aspect of the class, and I feel like I learned more in the course because of it. Dr. Singh has also taken me and several other students under his wing in his new Sensorimotor Neuroscience Lab, and he is always encouraging us to participate in undergraduate research, attend conferences and pursue our passions. All the while, he continues to support and educate us through weekly journal-based seminars and lab meetings.

Last but certainly not least, there is Karl Espelie! I have never met another educator who invests as much time and effort into his students as this man does. From the moment I stepped on the UGA campus, Dr. Espelie has been an invaluable mentor and advisor to me. Besides pushing his students to reach their full potential, Dr. Espelie is also great at supporting students in their time of need. I will always remember that after a particularly rough semester during my freshman year, it was Dr. Espelie that instilled confidence in me and reaffirmed that I belonged on UGA’s campus. Furthermore, Dr. Espelie’s Biology 2990H course was one of my favorite courses at UGA. The seminar encourages students to keep their plans for the future front and center in their minds, while simultaneously exposing them to unique applications of biology and medicine. I found it to be one of the most practical and valuable courses that I ever took.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with … 

… longtime friends of mine. I really enjoy catching up with my friends face-to-face, rather than through a phone or the internet. However, as time goes on, the people I know seem to be spreading out across the country and the globe. Because of this, it has become increasingly difficult to see them in person. If I had a free afternoon, I would spend it with all of my friends who have relocated to distant places, as well as those who I haven’t seen in a long time.

If I knew I could not fail, I would … 

Over the past year, I have spent a lot of time alongside individuals with limb loss. In my limited experience, it seems that having adequate care and equipment can make all the difference in the quality of life for this population as they move through the rehabilitation process and through the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, in the current day and age, it seems that too many members of this population end up being underserved. If I knew I couldn’t fail, I would find a way to guarantee all individuals with limb loss access to the specialized prosthetic devices that they need, as well as access to high-quality health care in every area from pain management to physical therapy.

If money was not a consideration, I would love to … 

… travel to all 58 national parks in the U.S.! This has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. The United States national park system contains so many awesome landscapes, including everything from the majestic mountains of Yosemite to the seaside volcanoes in Hawaii. It would be a dream come true to see every single park. Of course, I would have to bring a high-quality camera along, in order to properly capture the trip!

What is your passion and how are you committed to pursuing it? 

I believe that we are all put on this Earth to serve in one way or another. The ultimate passion that I am pursuing in life is to work in a career that interests me and that will allow me to serve my community. Eventually, I would love to provide service to others by helping people to manage their rehabilitation from debilitating conditions, whatever they may be.

After graduation, I plan to …

… return to the Washington, D.C., area in a full-time position as a research assistant at the Center for Rehabilitation Sciences Research. After a year or two of work at Walter Reed, I plan to pursue either a D.O. or M.D. degree to practice medicine in a clinical setting. At the moment, my ultimate career aspiration is to serve the country as a physiatrist in the armed forces.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be … 

As a member of UGA’s club rowing team, I had the opportunity to row at several venues including Chattanooga, Nashville, Oak Ridge, Gainesville, Clemson and Jacksonville.

One race in particular was very memorable to me, and it remains one of the highlights of my time at UGA. My sophomore year, I had the pleasure of representing our team at the Head of the Charles race in Boston, Massachusetts. Within the sport of rowing, this event is considered the most prestigious and historic race in the United States, and it is well known worldwide. It was quite special to experience the city of Boston for a weekend with some of my closest friends. The race environment at Charles is unparalleled; fans line the entirety of the 3-mile course, and the riverbank is essentially converted to a huge rowing-themed festival. Our race happened to take place in some of the worst conditions allowable by rule: it was bitter cold with 40 mph wind gusts. I was also fighting off the flu for the whole week before the race. Despite these challenges, our boat still rowed one of our best races on the big stage. If anything, the wild conditions of the race made the entire experience even more unforgettable, and it will be a memory that stays with me forever.