A passion for the life sciences

By Andrea Anastasio, ASBMB

Kaelan Brennan, Purdue University, is a recipient of the 2015 ASBMB Undergraduate Research award. He shares how his love of science began and offers advice to undergraduates thinking of pursuing research.

How and when did you first become interested in science?
For as long as I can remember, I have been curious about how life works. As a child, I vividly remember spending time with my mother in the garden, asking how and why the plants grew. Why couldn’t they move? Were they even alive? And if so, how did we know? I remember visiting zoos and aquariums and questioning why all the animals were so different. Why were some animals big and others small? How was anything able to live underwater? The mechanisms of life had peaked my interest. However, it wasn’t until my first biology class in high school that I discovered my unwavering passion for the life sciences. These early experiences inspired me to continue asking questions about how life works and to seek out the answers through my studies and my research.

Kaelan_Brennan_researchAre you planning to attend graduate school after college? If so, in what field?
After graduating from Purdue University, I plan on attending graduate school. I am thinking that either a genetics program or a biochemistry program would suit me best.

Are you participating in any extracurricular activities on campus?
Since my very first semester at Purdue, I have played oboe in the university’s top concert band, the Purdue Wind Ensemble. Additionally, I have served as a College of Agriculture Ambassador since the start of sophomore year. My duties as an ambassador afford me the opportunity to interact with prospective students which is always an incredible experience for me.

What kinds of research are you involved in currently?
For over a year now, I have worked in Dr. Vikki Weake’s lab in the department of biochemistry at Purdue. In Dr. Weake’s lab, we work on the chromatin remodeling complex SAGA and its role in Drosophila melanogaster visual development. We use Drosophila as a model for neurodegenerative disease and defects in vision. Currently, I’m working with Dr. Hana Hall on understanding age-dependent transcriptional changes in photoreceptor cells that contribute to the onset of blindness and how SAGA may be involved in these changes.

What advice do you have for undergraduates wanting to get involved in research?
Go for it! If you feel that research may be right for you, don’t be afraid to go out and look for opportunities to get involved in a lab. The first step is just simply knowing what sorts of research projects are going on around you. Once you have an idea about what kind of research you would like to get involved in, be proactive by talking to graduate students and professors who work on these projects. It is a great way to build connections and get your foot in the door. And you may just get offered the chance to join in on the fun and start some research!

What are your career goals?
My career goals include attending graduate school to earn a PhD in biochemistry or a similar life science. Upon earning this graduate degree, my next step would be to complete a post-doctoral program. After all of this, my goal is to be appointed to a faculty position at a major research university where I would have the opportunity to do research as well as teach undergraduates and graduates.

What are your hobbies?
When I’m not studying or working in the lab, one of my favorite activities is running. Running has become a part of my daily routine, with a 5 mile run each night. Additionally, I love to watch movies and read books. I find both movies and books to be a great way to relax on the weekends after a difficult week. However, my favorite hobby is spending time with family and friends. For me, there’s nothing more peaceful than being around those who make me feel at home.

Click here to learn more about the ASBMB Undergraduate Research award.

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