Student view:

Brendyn Smith: Back to nature

Aug. 1, 2018

Brendyn Smith is a rising senior majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology and a Dean’s Research Scholar in the College of Natural Science.  

The number of opportunities students have at MSU is immense. We have access to world-class faculty and facilities that grant us the ability to virtually do anything we’d like. All it takes is a little bit of initiative to make things happen.

My research focuses on tackling chronic disease, environmental preservation and antibiotic resistance by using nature’s chemistry to our advantage. We can gain inspiration from, or directly use, nature’s chemistry as a tool to create new, useful molecules that can help us solve the aforementioned societal challenges.

Hometown: Dexter, Michigan

How did you select your major: I was always fascinated with how things like health supplements and drugs worked.  I wanted to know what was going on at the molecular level.  What I eventually discovered is that these biologically active compounds had to have been made by someone or something.  I found that studying biochemistry with a focus on organic chemistry would give me the best background to learn how to make these compounds.

In 1-2 sentences, describe your research: Our universe is a vast chemical landscape made up of complex molecular architectures – many of which possess useful biological properties.  My research focuses on investigating how to be the “chemical architect” of these molecules.

What is the societal impact of your research: The step of actually making drugs (known as ”organic synthesis”) is commonly cited as the rate-limiting step when it comes to the development of pharmaceuticals and therapeutics.  Through doing organic synthesis research we can develop methods that can drastically reduce the time, effort, and environmental impact that goes into making molecules such as drugs.  These methods can be used to speed up the pursuit of finding cures and treatments for problematic diseases and conditions.

How has your undergraduate experience been impacted by this experience: My research endeavors have been a large part of forging my undergraduate experience. The classroom provides you with the “paintbrushes” and the “color palettes;” however, you do not learn how to “paint” in class.  Doing research is when you learn how to “paint” and make use of the tools you have been provided and learned about in the lecture hall.  Research is an art.

Favorite food: Mexican.

Best invention: Musical instruments.

Worst invention: YouTube ads.

On my bucket list: Spend a night in one of those underwater hotels.

Person I’d most like to meet (living or dead): Phil Baran; however, I will be spending the summer of 2018 in his lab for an internship!

On a Saturday afternoon, you’ll likely find me: At the gym or playing guitar.

Major research breakthrough of the next decade (not your own, but overall): Improved efforts in personalized medicine.

Where do you see yourself in five years: Pursuing a doctorate in organic chemistry.

Where do you see yourself in 25 years: Being a professor and conducting academic research.  I’d also like to get involved in industry as well.  Aside from those endeavors, I see myself as a father and husband.

What are some of your favorite MSU memories: “He has trouble with the snap . . . and the ball is free!”