By Jordan Prochnow
To many Hawkeyes, the University of Iowa can feel like a second home. For twins and graduating seniors Olivia and Alyssa Ray, the idea takes on a whole new meaning.
The Ray twins were conceived through in vitro fertilization at University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics because of fertility struggles with their parents. The twins, both chemistry and biochemistry majors, began working for the Women’s Health Tissue Repository in 2015. On a visit, their father recognized that the lab was, in fact, the same lab in which the twins were conceived.
“It was surprising when we first found out that this was the lab where we were conceived,” Alyssa Ray said. “It was a total coincidence, but I think it really gave me a new perspective. This lab gave me life. I think what we are researching now can save lives, also.”
“I loved telling my friends that I would not be alive without science, so going into the medical field seemed like a no-brainer,” Olivia Ray said.
They both said they found working with each other to be extremely meaningful, and their relationship helped them find balance among school, research, and personal life.
“Research and school can be very difficult, and it is nice to know that someone is going through the exact same thing,” Alyssa Ray said.
Olivia Ray said working in the lab with her sister cemented her desire to work in the medical field.
“It definitely solidified the fact that I wanted to have a career in medicine,” she said. “I thought that at first I may enjoy the academic challenge of becoming a researcher, but I soon discovered that I really enjoyed personal interactions with patients.”
Outside of working in the lab, Olivia Ray is also part of Be the Match, signing up donors for the national donor registry program, and she volunteers at the UIHC in the Intensive Care Unit.
“I really loved talking to people and making them feel better if there was no family there to support them,” Olivia Ray said.
While working at the lab, Alyssa Ray said she was inspired to pursue medicine as a career as well. She had never been exposed to medical research but quickly found a passion in the subject. She was able to go to the hospital and collect samples for the Maternal Fetal Tissue Bank, which sparked an interest in obstetrics and gynecology for her to help people with infertility problems.
“Infertility is a difficult process with many ups and downs,” she said. “I think the most important thing is to be empathetic to those who have infertility. [In vitro] is not always successful.”
After graduation, the twins will take separate paths to continue their education. Olivia Ray will attend Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine, and Alyssa Ray will venture to Southern Illinois University School of Medicine.
While both cite working in medical research at UI as forming their college experiences, Alyssa Ray said memories made outside of the lab or class affected her the most.
“I feel as though my whole UI experience was great, but I feel as though the friends that I made here are amazing,” Alyssa Ray said. “Classes can be difficult, but we all worked together to solve long problem sets or understand difficult concepts. The helpfulness of everyone really speaks of my whole Iowa experience.”