Britt Gilley, of Charlotte, a graduate of Surry Community College, is now working in medical laboratories and making strides toward developing her career even further.
Gilley graduated from East Surry High School in 2008 and then attended Surry Community College to start her college education. She earned an associate in arts and took additional pre-requisite classes that helped her get a headstart at a university.
“I had never enjoyed a biology course until I took biology II with Karl Bretz at SCC. He is the reason I majored in science, grew to love science, and that I am a working scientist today,” Gilley said. “His biology course was taught with more passion and rigor than I encountered in many courses at a four-year university. He provided many opportunities for dissection of various animal specimens, took us on nature walks to observe plants and animals in their natural settings, and assigned challenging research papers and practical examinations that prepared me for further study in the sciences.”
After graduating from SCC, Gilley transferred to Appalachian State University where she obtained a Bachelor’s of Science in biological anthropology. There, she was a member of the Estep genetics lab, where she assisted with conservation genetics research of rare and endangered plants in Appalachia.
Gilley returned to SCC in 2019 to take prerequisites for the medical laboratory science certificate program at Carolina College of Health Sciences. Back at SCC, she received support from Becky Critz, her microbiology instructor.
“Mrs. Critz teaches a course on par with those at the university level. She provides constant hands-on learning opportunities for her students, most of whom are preparing to enter the medical field,” Gilley said. “As a former medical lab scientist herself, she mentored me as I searched for programs, wrote multiple letters of recommendation for me, and checked in on me to encourage me throughout my continued studies. She was instrumental in my success at every step of transitioning into the medical field from academia.”
Gilley is a certified Medical Laboratory Scientist by the American Society for Clinical Pathology and works for Atrium Health. She plans on working in the laboratory for a few more years as a traveling technician and pursuing her master’s in health science within the next five years. She hopes to one day return to a community college as an instructor in science.
Gilley looks back at her time at Surry Community College fondly. “Having professors that are invested in your success, providing research opportunities in the first year or two of college allows students to be ahead of the curve when they reach university. The small class sizes, passion for the subject matter, and hands-on labs provided are unparalleled, especially for the affordable cost of attending Surry,” she said.
She adds, “I am very thankful that I spent the first years of my academic career at Surry rather than attending university immediately after high school. The experiences I had and the money I saved by choosing a community college continues to be rewarding, allowing me to invest in the pursuit of advanced degrees.”
Gilley lives with her partner, Nick, who recently retired from the Army National Guard, and their dog, Charlie. She enjoys hiking, reading, skating, botany, the beach and marine biology. She jokes that “every scientist secretly wants to be a marine biologist.”