GS: Where are you from?
BC: Atlanta, Georgia.
GS: What degree will you receive and when?
BC: I earned a B. S. in Chemistry with a focus on Biochemistry from the State University of West Georgia. Currently, I am working towards my Ph. D in Chemistry with a focus in Biophysical Chemistry.
GS: How long have you been at UAB?
BC: Five years.
GS: What is your research?
BC: Our research focuses on a class of proteins called “nuclear receptors” which are responsible for regulating gene expression by controlling transcription. These proteins exist in the nucleus of the cell bound to DNA. Hormones, the chemical messengers of the body, are transported into the nucleus and bind to nuclear receptor proteins. Once the hormone is bound, the nuclear receptor protein undergoes structural and dynamical changes that promote the recruitment of transcriptional machinery. Currently, we are investigating the structures of the hormones that bind to nuclear receptors and how the hormone influences the recruitment of the transcriptional machinery. My research is done using a combination of computational and thermodynamic techniques.
GS: Why did you choose UAB for your graduate studies?
BC: The UAB Department of Chemistry promoted a summer research program for undergraduates. As an undergraduate, I was more interested in spending my summer doing research rather than trying to find a summer job. The research at UAB appeared really interesting. So, I applied and was accepted to the summer REU program. It was a fantastic summer. I really enjoyed the professors and the facilities. It was after that experience when I decided to come here for graduate school.
GS: Have you received any awards or honors?
BC: Yes. I’ve won two awards in presentation competitions. I’ve also been the UAB Department of Chemistry Graduate Student of the Year for 2008.
GS: What has been your most rewarding experience at UAB?
BC: The most rewarding experience was after my literature seminar. After a month of headaches and hard work, I gave my seminar. The practice paid off, and the seminar was well-received. It was rewarding because it instigated a new appreciation for science and the literature.
GS: Who was your greatest influence here at UAB and why?
BC: There are two large influences for me at UAB: Dr. Tracy Hamilton and Dr Donald Muccio. They have both guided my academic and scientific development for the past five years. I see Dr. Hamilton on a daily basis. He has a great attitude and helps me keep things in perspective. Dr. Muccio has helped me develop and clearly present my ideas. He has also given me an appreciation for good science.
GS: What is your motivation in your academics/research?
BC: I always felt that there is a ceiling in science-oriented careers that is bound by your education. With only a Bachelor of Science degree, a career is very limited in terms of progress and positions. The ceiling rises once you earn a Masters degree, but you are still limited. Having a PhD provides more possibilities and opportunities than a B.S. or Masters degree. That’s my motivation – to have an unimpeded career in science.
GS: What are your plans after graduating and for the future?
BC: Like most other graduate students, I’ve been driving a terrible, cheap car for a long time. Making it to work is a miracle. My first plan after graduating is to buy a new car (which is probably a common plan for other students, too). Beyond that, I’m looking forward to exploring my options in career paths.
Bryan’s advice for other graduate students
Always read the literature! Read at least two scientific articles a day. They don’t even have to be relevant to your field. But, reading the literature will help you become well-versed in your specific field or area of interest. It will also save you time in the long run. We have a tongue-in-cheek banner hanging in our lab that states, “Two weeks in the lab saves one hour in the library”.