GS: Where are you from?
KS: I last lived in Iowa, but I was born in Georgia. My dad is in the Air Force, so we moved around some while I lived at home. I think that is why I am both open to living in different areas and even more comfortable with the thought of setting down roots in one place for the rest of my life.
GS: What degree will you receive and when?
KS: I have bachelors degrees in Computer Science and Biology and am currently in a Ph.D. program in Vision Science, which I matriculated to as a Neuroscience student.
GS: How long have you been at UAB?
KS: It feels like I am a charter member! I also went to undergrad here. I chose UAB partly because of their graduate programs, and it was an honor to be allowed to enter one.
GS: What is your research?
KS: These two smart dudes named Hering and Helmholtz had a debate over the fundamental structure of the pathways that drive eye movements. Do we, like chameleons, control each eye independently, or do we have a combination of systems that only send signals to both eyes (moving together or in opposite directions). This less smart dude is using electrophysiology and behavioral experiments in alert animals to resolve their spat.
GS: What made you choose UAB for your graduate studies?
KS: The level of research conducted here and the funding allotted for it speaks for itself. That is a testament to the amazing faculty more than any other factor.
GS: Have you received any awards or honors?
KS: I was given the privilege of winning the Discussion Book Essay contest the last two years, as well as being selected for Who's Who Among College Students. It was really fun to enter the essay contests, which are completely unrelated to my very technical research. I have found that UAB, both through school-wide programs and the Graduate Student Association, makes a very concerted effort to provide a variety of activities that allow us to step outside of our normal roles and remember that we are still human beings. I think anyone who has devoted themselves to something as fully as a graduate student does understands the importance of doing this.
GS: What has been your most rewarding experience at UAB?
KS: Concluding the experiments of a major electrophysiology project. It was my first truly independent project and it was the point that I finally felt like I might just be able to graduate.
GS: Who was your greatest influence here at UAB and why?
KS: My mentor, Dr. Claudio Busettini. When I first entered graduate school, I was extremely unsure of myself. In my mind, I needed to step into a lab, throw out a brilliant plan of research, and move forward with little-to-no assistance. I really was just learning the basics of vision and neuroscience, though, and to some extent I really felt like a fraud. Dr. Busettini has been extremely patient and kind in showing me that I am a graduate student for a reason and has helped make the process very tangible for me. While I am still terrified to speak in front of people, I am not at all unsure of the research I am presenting, and I know that I can always turn to him for help when I need it. A lot of the experience we have is defined by what lab we choose to do our research in. That choice set a great course for me, and I am very thankful for a mentor that truly goes the extra mile for both the people in his lab and his students.
GS: What is your motivation in your academics/research?
KS: My motivation in all things is to please God. I suppose that seems like a simplistic answer, but I am really a simple person. Okay, I also think wearing a lab coat is pretty cool.
GS: What are your plans after graduating and for the future?
KS: While I try to remain open to wherever God leads me, I don't see myself giving up the lab coat any time soon. I will likely start with a Post Doc and decide where to go from there.
Kevin’s advice for other graduate students:
Relax. Do not feel like you need to rush through a degree and do not set unrealistic goals for yourself. The time you have in graduate school is not just a transition to doing something more important or profitable. It is a valuable experience in itself and failures can be even more valuable than successes.