SWearing a hat and shirt from his future medical school, Nathan Piccoli, 22, a senior at Missouri Southern State University, breathed a big sigh of relief on Thursday after completing his final exam of his undergraduate career.

“Especially since this morning, I’m in seventh heaven,” he said with a smile. “Now all that stress from the last four years of my life is completely gone today, and I’m just living it.”

Piccoli, from Osceola, was selected as an Outstanding MSSU 2021 graduate by the Board of the Alumni Association, which annually honors the achievements of the best student. He graduates Saturday with a double major in biology and biochemistry – both with a specialization in pre-med – after completing 170 credit hours while maintaining a GPA of 4.0.

“The competition is so crazy between me and all my friends that I didn’t expect to win this award because they are all excellent students,” Piccoli said. “Being nominated for this really means a lot because I know how great our chemistry and biology departments are. It’s a really great feeling.

The 76th launch ceremony at MSSU will be offered as a walk-in celebration on Saturday at the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center. There are 678 spring graduates and 102 summer graduates who are graduating.

The MSSU was a no-brainer for Piccoli, who said he appreciated the small size of the classrooms and the individual opportunities to interact with staff. He is the treasurer of the Caduceus Club, a professional medical organization, and is a member of the Lion Ambassadors.

“I study a lot,” he says. “Most of my time is spent on class work, but when I have free time, that’s when I work on everything else. I am also a research student in the Reptilian Physiology Laboratory on campus, which also takes up a lot of my time. I spend at least three hours a week in the lab.

Piccoli said the MSSU has provided several research opportunities that most undergraduate schools don’t. He has published some of his research in two abstracts, has been a peer reviewer for six journal submissions, and received awards at the Kansas Herpetological Society Annual Meeting in 2018 and the 2019 Research Symposium at the MSSU. After graduation, Piccoli will go to the Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine in Fort Smith to study orthopedic surgery. He said he knew he wanted a doctor since his last year of high school. He then worked as a certified medical assistant at the Golden Valley Medical Clinic in Clinton during college breaks for three years.

“I was working a lot throughout the start of the pandemic which was really cool because it was a different environment,” Piccoli said. “It was amazing. There couldn’t have been anything better that would have given me the opportunity to get into med school or prepare for med school, other than that. C was the best opportunity that could come.

The Missouri Southern Outstanding Graduate Award is presented each spring to a senior graduate by the MSSU Alumni Association. The award recognizes an outstanding individual for their outstanding achievement in the classroom and for the significant contributions they have made to their university and community.

The prospective medical student has also volunteered with the Joplin Humane Society, Martin Luther School, and the George Washington Carver National Monument.

While taking Biology 110 with David Penning, assistant professor of biology at MSSU, Piccoli said he took the opportunity to do research in the campus reptile lab. From there he discovers other doors that lead to new experiences.

“Nathan is simply the most cumulative dominant student I have ever worked with at multiple universities,” Penning said in a statement.

“He maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA and in my opinion surpassed all others in his dedication and effort in college activities, campus activities, leadership and mentorship.”

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