Ryan Carstens ('09) | Chemistry & Biochemistry
from College Station, Texas
The opportunity to participate in a research project as a freshman at ACU changed the course of Ryan Carstens' future.
Ryan thought he wanted to become a doctor when he came to ACU. He began his freshman year as a pre-med student and started taking the required classes.
It took him only one semester to find out this wasn't what he wanted to do with his life. He took his problem to Dr. Brian Cavitt, chemistry professor, who suggested that maybe Ryan would be happier doing research in a lab setting and offered to let him work on a research project as a trial run.
Ryan was hooked. "With research, I found a purpose for science," he said. Finally, he had found something that linked what he learned in class to a tangible reality. "It's nice to see that connection," he said.
During the second semester of his freshman year, he conducted research with polymers and synthesis reactions. The experiment involved using polymers to make a bacteria-resistant coating that could be applied to surfaces in order to prevent the spread of germs. This coating could be used in doctors' offices and hospitals instead of surgical steel; the coating would be much cheaper and easier to replace.
Ryan helped with the research for a year and a half. One of his favorite parts was getting to apply for a patent for the polymer coating. For the most part, though, he simply loved the research itself.
"It really gives my studies direction," he said. Ryan loves the fact that in the lab he's conducting experiments that no one has ever done before. He also likes the fact that he doesn't have a specific set of rules or instructions to follow. Although he has a goal in mind, he gets to work at his own pace. And the experience he gains through doing extracurricular work in the lab makes him stand out on applications to graduate schools and potential employers.
"I really like doing science - I really like being in the lab," he said.
Ryan gives a good deal of the credit for his achievements to the strong relationships he's developed with his professors at ACU. From helping him discover the right major to talking about graduate schools and career options, the professors of the chemistry department have given him the information and experience he will need later on.
"At ACU, I really feel like I've had opportunities I wouldn't have had other places," he said.
After he graduates, Ryan plans to attend a graduate school that focuses on immunology.
He’s considering doing research with vaccines, autoimmune disorders or cancer. After five years of study, he'll receive his Ph.D. and be able to pursue his dream job: research professor at a graduate school.
Ryan is excited about the possibilities of his future career. He sees it as a chance to make an impact on the world and do what he loves at the same time. "I'm glad I get to do something I like, and I get to help people," he said.
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