Dan Riggins '12 is on contract for a two-year fellowship with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to research vaccine development. His project involves basic research toward a potential vaccine that would protect people infected with the flu from difficult-to-treat secondary Staph infections. According to Riggins, people already infected with the flu are much more susceptible to Staphylococcal pneumonia, which can be fatal.
My boss, principal investigator Scott Stibitz, whose daughter Sandy goes to Kenyon, met my professor and mentor Joan Slonczewski during Family Weekend at the poster session from the Summer Science Scholar Program. He was impressed with the quality of the posters, knew Dr. Slonczewski by reputation, and liked the MicrobeWiki Web page she has developed with her students. Later on, when Dr. Stibitz was looking to fill post-baccalaureate fellowships at the Food and Drug Administration, he e-mailed Dr. Slonczewski and she recommended me. It was a fantastic circumstance. I had been looking for labs to work in and was largely unsuccessful until Dr. Slonczewski connected me with Dr. Stibitz.
The opportunity to do lab work for four years honed my skills and gave me the knowledge I needed when I got to the FDA. While performing independent research at Kenyon, I felt engaged and free to make my own choices and mistakes.
What makes Kenyon special is the effort it puts into teaching us how to write in a clear and concise manner. I think it has to do with Kenyon's reputation in English. My introductory biology lab was as much a writing class as a science class. I don't think science students get the same level of training in writing at other colleges and universities. Learning to write is huge. Most scientists have the proficiency to do good research, but if they can't effectively communicate their findings, it's hard for them to inform the public or influence opinion.
When I was writing my honors thesis, Dr. Slonczewski and I e-mailed drafts back and forth. It was a very rigorous process because she always was suggesting corrections and wanted me to develop my ideas. The level of attention she paid to detail was amazing. She is an incredibly inspirational woman and I was lucky to be able to work with her all four years.
I liked the relaxed Midwestern feel of the student body and the rustic charm of the campus. Kenyon was strong in my two main interests at the time: English and theater. However, I also wanted to fulfill my pre-med requirements. It ended up that the biology courses and research were so interesting that they turned me onto science. I love reading and writing, but biological research definitely has become my passion.
Poetry, animals, and running are my big hobbies. I read and write poetry, was a captain of the cross country team at Kenyon, and adopted a pit bull puppy I met while volunteering at the Humane Society. I also brew an occasional batch of beer.