Nathan Burns

  • Class of 2017, BS Biochemistry, Molecular Biology minor

What have you been up to since graduation?

Since graduating from Miami, I have been working at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD (just outside of DC) as a postbac research fellow in a lab studying neuro-vascular development. The postbac program at the NIH is a great program designed to last 1 – 2 years giving students additional research experience prior to applying to some sort of graduate program (PhD, Masters, MPH, Medicine, etc.) in a national laboratory. I just accepted a position at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City as a PhD student in their bioscience program and am excited to start this fall! 

How has being a graduate of Miami Chemistry and Biochemistry helped your career?

The opportunities I had at Miami while working toward a biochemistry degree have helped in my career path tremendously. The faculty in the department really care about the students and are always available to help out when you need to talk about something going on in class or with planning for what to do after graduation. Having the ability to begin research during my freshman year also gave me a huge advantage over other students from other schools. During my research experiences, I was able to learn so many different techniques, skills, how to use multi-million equipment, and take on my own independent research project in my lab because of the value Miami puts into undergraduate research. Speaking with friends at other schools, I began to realize that at most other schools, a lot of the things I was doing were only allowed to be done by senior graduate students and postdocs. I also had opportunities to present at several regional and national conferences. I was met other undergraduates from around the country and I was able to really see how much better prepared I and the other Miami students were when it came to presenting our work and also understanding what/why we were doing – because we the ones actually performing the experiments and using the equipment! Learning to really do research and run experiments and be a part of a team rather than just be handed the final data by the grad student or postdoc actually doing the experiments has been a huge advantage in my current position at the NIH, and the opportunities afforded by undergraduate research at Miami has really impressed faculty I have spoken with at graduate school interviews.

Any advice for those who would like to have a career in science and who are considering a chemistry or biochemistry major?

I say go for it! Careers in science are always going to be needed and there are so many different routes you can take a career. Academia and research are typically the two big ones that come to mind, but if that isn’t what you want, that doesn’t mean science isn’t for you. Scientists are needed all over the place, from industry, to government policy, consulting, law, public outreach, and the list keeps going on. I studied biochemistry because I knew I was very interested in the life sciences and had an absolutely fantastic gen chem professor (I switched over from biology) and then grew to really enjoy learning about biochemistry through my classes and research. One piece of advice that my advisor gave I thought was helpful was to take some fun classes. Especially being a science major and in upper years, course loads can get to be a bit heavy. Taking a fun class here and there, such as a religion or music class, or Tai Chi. This not only helped me to lighten the load a little bit, but also learn something I wouldn’t have normally learned and meet people I wouldn’t have met in my core classes.