Goodnight Scholars Alum, Hadley Bryan ’17 was set on attending medical school when first entering NC State as a Human Biology Major. But, after an inspiring Genetics course and a Goodnight Scholars enrichment grant experience, Hadley transitioned to a fulfilling career in Genetics Research.
Goodnight Scholars Program: Where has life taken you since graduating from NC State?
Hadley Bryan ’17: Currently I am a PhD candidate and researcher in the Human Genetics track at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. So, a couple times a week I spend three to four hours in lab. I specifically work with zebrafish. So, a lot of my lab time is spent with maintenance of zebrafish and setting up experiments. If I am at home working, I’m writing or reading papers, and I also TA for a class. I TA for a wide variety of students and I have to figure out the best way to explain the content to them, which is I think a really fun part of my job as a TA. Then the other role I have this year is Secretary of our Graduate Student Association.
What research do you do with Zebrafish?
Some of the organs of the zebrafish surprisingly mimic human physiology more than mice do, specifically their pancreas. I model rare diseases called ciliopathies, which are defects or gene mutations that cause problems with the primary cilium on cells. I study two ciliopathies in particular, Bardet Biedl Syndrome and Alstrom Syndrome. The ciliopathies have a range of phenotypes or characteristics. Some cause deafness and blindness. Some can cause situs inversus where all the organs in your body are completely turned around on the wrong side of your body so your heart would be on the right side instead of the left side.
What inspired you to pursue research?
I took an Intro to Biotechnology at NC State that got me interested in research. I started a research internship with a Goodnight Scholars Enrichment Grant. When I got into research in the biotechnology department, I had more leeway to ask my own questions since it was an internship that I had applied for not just a lab. I really liked being able to look through the literature and find out what I thought was interesting and what I thought would make a good question. So that’s really what led me to pursue a PhD. At the time I had this minor crisis of “I thought I wanted to go to medical school but now I only look at a PhD like what am I doing?” But, I think it was for the best, because I really enjoy working in the lab and asking those sorts of questions.
How did your education at NC State and experience in the Goodnight Scholars Program prepare you for what you’re doing now?
It would be kind of difficult to list out all of the transferable skills, professional development, and experiences either through the Goodnight Scholars Program, NC State, and the Biotechnology Department. I really think the most important thing that I took away from my whole experience was the importance of a support system that invests in you, so you’re able to invest yourself. I think that is really something that you have in the Goodnight Scholars Program, and you’re really able to do so much knowing that that support system is behind you.
I really think the most important thing that I took away from my whole experience was the importance of a support system that invests in you, so you’re able to invest yourself.
What was your fondest memory from your undergrad years?
There’s probably two fondest memories. One was my Shack-A-Thon, and spending the night in the Shack! We were sitting on the porch portion of the shack, and people had brought instruments and we were just having like a little jam session and we had Insomnia cookies. I remember thinking, wow, these are the people that I’m going to go through undergrad with and that’s so cool! Spending the night in a shack was never a good night of sleep, but it was a good time. The other memory is it snowed one time while I was in undergrad, which was enough to cancel classes for a few days. Me and a couple Goodnight Scholars all hung out together, and we just made food together and hung out and maybe studied a bit!
Is there any advice you think is important for current NC State students and Goodnight Scholars to hear?
I think the main one that I’ve probably thought about a lot is not being afraid to figure out what’s right for you. And I think I’ve had to figure this out a few times during my education. I came into NC State as a Human Bio major thinking that was a big deal at NC State, and the Human Bio majors are a perfect major for going to med school. I thought I would be so prepared and there were clubs for pre-med, and that was a big selling point when I came to open house. And then I took Genetics. I took it freshman year, instead of waiting until junior or senior year to take it. And then everything changed for me. When I started research I was like maybe med school isn’t right for me. I know what I really want to do, I know what I’m passionate about, and maybe let’s like take a step back and figure out if the path that I’m on is really leading me into what I’m inspired to do.