UNC Pharmacy Student Joins the Darkside

Second year student, Dylan Hawkins, balances studying at the #1 School of Pharmacy with playing on the #1 intercollegiate Ultimate Frisbee team

Story by Zach Read | Photo credit Brian Whittier | Published August 22, 2023

Dylan Hawkins catches a frisbee just in front of a defending player

Like many first-year students at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, Dylan Hawkins ran into the usual challenges. Chief among them? Managing the difficult workload.

“It was an adjustment from undergraduate work,” the soon-to-be second-year student says. “Every older student I talked to at orientation said that the first bit would be a little tough. I thought it would be fine, but they were right that the volume of work takes some getting used to.”

As his first fall in Chapel Hill progressed, however, Dylan got used to the load. He credited the routine he developed with helping him become more comfortable with the transition.

A key component of Dylan’s routine was his participation with UNC Darkside, Carolina’s juggernaut ultimate frisbee team. Darkside has appeared in the national championship tournament 11 consecutive times, the national final four nine consecutive times, and the national championship game seven times. Darkside has won five national championships, the most recent coming in May in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Dylan’s commitment to the team required him to practice throughout the week and play in tournaments over the weekends, in both the fall and the spring semesters. Ultimate served as a balance to his studies, and he channeled his energy into the camaraderie, teamwork, exercise, and high level of competition and success that makes Darkside unique.

“It was pretty tricky, especially that first semester,” says Dylan, who stands about 6’4” and is affectionately known to his teammates as Big Pharma. “I was figuring out my limits and what I can and can’t do. It was good to have something to look forward to every week, a chance to practice and blow off steam.”

The culmination of his hard work on the field came in the team’s run through the quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals over Brown, Vermont, and UMass, respectively.

“We ran the northeast gauntlet,” Dylan says, laughing.

Individually, the moment that meant the most to him was the game-winning catch he made to defeat Brown in the quarterfinals, a game that had reached a next-score-wins moment.

“As soon as I caught it, the entire team was right there behind me,” he says.

Collectively, defeating Vermont and realizing, together, that they were going to be playing for the championship was a special moment for Dylan, who made the tournament every year as an undergraduate at NC State but didn’t reach the highest level.

Fortunately for Dylan, as he navigated school and team responsibilities, he found support on and off the field from pharmacy school faculty member Scott Singleton, whose son Josh is also a member of Darkside and was the teammate who threw him the game-winning score against Brown.

Scott, an Associate Professor in the Division of Chemical Biology and Medicinal Chemistry (CBMC), serves as faculty advisor for Darkside, supporting the players as they navigate their academics and future education and career planning.

“Maybe I’m a bit biased, but Dylan’s academic load is as challenging and rigorous as anyone’s on the team, for sure,” says Scott, who can be found keeping statistics on the sideline at each Darkside contest. “I know how intentional he has to be about balancing studying non-stop, round the clock, with also being there for his team and his teammates. He did a great job at that. So, when I saw them celebrating together, I thought about how much work it took to get there for them. I was just thrilled for them.”

Scott admires Dylan for his approach not only on the field and in the classroom, but also as a person.

“First and foremost, Dylan is a kind and caring human being, and that comes across both as a person, as well as a student in the classroom and as a competitor as well,” Scott says. “His kindness doesn’t mean that he’s not ambitious and motivated to win. Dylan is also an incredibly thoughtful, deeply discerning individual. Someone who takes his time in how he responds and that’s something you see as a teacher in the classroom. And I think the same is true for him as a player and a teammate. He’s not necessarily the first one to scream out at the top of his lungs, but he’s always there for the hug and the good word after he’s processes things.”

Despite his love of ultimate, the disc isn’t what brought Dylan to Chapel Hill. As an undergraduate at NC State, Dylan knew he wanted to pursue a career in a medical field. He shadowed in different health professions, but nothing clicked for him until the tail end of college, when he worked as a pharmacy technician.

“It was the number one school,” Dylan admits. “I tried to keep frisbee out of my decision, but it turned out the school I chose happened to be pretty good at frisbee too, so I’m glad it worked out that way.”

At this stage in his educational career, Dylan is considering pursuing an MBA-PharmD dual degree, which would mean spending his third year working on his MBA through Kenan-Flagler. He is also interested in supporting drug discovery.

“I’ve had many older students tell me they thought they were going to do one thing, but fell in love with something else, so I’m keeping an open mind,” he says.

One thing Dylan isn’t open to changing his mind about is his allegiance to NC State athletics, except for his role on Darkside.

“Go Pack all the way,” he says, laughing. “I just can’t stand Carolina sports, especially football.”

As his relationship with Dylan has developed, Scott says he and Dylan have a tacit agreement to steer clear of the UNC/NC State rivalry as a topic of discussion.

“We focus on pharmacy and Darkside and let the rest go,” Scott says. “But I do think we finally got his parents to at least wear the occasional UNC gear and Darkside gear. It’s a work in progress.”​