Student spotlight: Pre-med student balances novels, neurology

Dec. 2, 2013

Eleanor Skelton
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Pre-med students are often stereotyped as being married to their academics and MCAT scores, but some make time for extracurricular activities.

Robert Hoyt, a senior majoring in biology and chemistry, currently has a 3.9 GPA, but he is also a published writer and aspiring novelist who runs his own webcomic.

In addition to taking International Baccalaureate courses, Bach went on a Palmer High School tour of the UCCS cadaver lab, which he says was “really when I started taking an interest in medicine.”

Hoyt describes himself as a “burst writer” learning to write more incrementally as his course load increased. “There was one particular day where I wrote 30 pages, and it was solid work, but it’s the kind of system that I tended to work on, but I don’t have time for that. That takes an entire day for me,” he said.

He has three or four short stories published in anthologies and has self-published several novels and novellas through Naked Reader Press. “Cat’s Paw” was his first novel, and he recently wrote a prequel, “Ratskiller.”

“I also have a kind of cleaned-up version of something I called ‘Christmas Serial,’ but its name on Amazon is ‘Target: Santa.’ Basically, it’s a black ops mission to take out Santa Claus,” Hoyt said.

Ninja Nun, Hoyt’s webcomic, “started as a joke around the kitchen table” but totals almost 400 strips, which can be viewed at

“I’m not really religious … [but] I do make jokes about religion,” he explained. “I’m cradle Catholic. So I feel if anyone is qualified to make jokes about the Vatican, it ought to be me.”

Hoyt has participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in the past, but did not participate this year. He has never completed a novel with NaNoWriMo, but he has “gotten substantial starts. I think it’s a very useful tool, because definitely one of the hardest things when you’re a writer is kicking yourself into doing something.”

Hoyt describes himself as a huge Terry Pratchett fan, who lent to him learning about neurology and specifically, neurosurgery. Pratchett has Alzheimer’s disease. “I have seen influence of it in his writing,” said Hoyt. “I think it’s terrifying.”

“Neurological diseases, more than anything else, are really capable of stealing you from you without you even noticing. They just wreak havoc on your personality. Terry Pratchett has easily forgotten more than I will know in my entire life about writing.”

After graduation, Hoyt is looking to apply to medical school. His top five choices are Wake Forest, New York University, CU-Denver Anschutz Medical Campus, Baylor and the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine.

Hoyt participated in rat research at Wake Forest and one of the studies was called a “memory implant,” published June 17, 2011 in The New York Times.

The researchers implanted electrodes into trained rats’ brains and recorded signals to implant into the brains of untrained rats.

“They were successfully able to bias the untrained rat’s decisions significantly towards those of the trained rat,” Hoyt said. “Essentially, they recorded thoughts from one rat and played them into another rat and were able to imitate training.”