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Cultivating the Future: Bryn Yoder

Cultivating the Future

A summer internship helped this biochemistry student cement plans for the future

Mary Konstantin gets misty-eyed in the middle of a lab, beakers bubbling away in the background, as she recounts the amazing summer she spent mentoring her intern, Bryn Yoder.

Konstantin is a research and development scientist with EnvrioLogix in Portland, Maine, and Yoder is a Bryn Yoder working in the labrising senior biochemistry student at Purdue University.

“This has been such an important experience for both of us,” Konstantin said. “It’s been important to Bryn’s
career trajectory, but it’s also been important to me and the company. Bryn brought a new perspective and fresh ideas.”

Yoder is nodding from across the lab, agreeing on all counts.

This past summer with EnviroLogix, a company leading the way in molecular diagnostics for crops, helped Yoder solidify her passion for biochemistry and lab work. She’s now thinking concretely about pursuing her Ph.D. in the field, an idea that’s simmered in the back of her mind for a while.

“I learned a lot from this summer that will be essential in my graduate education,” Yoder said. “I conducted independent literature reviews, gained a lot of new lab work techniques, and was afforded the ability to work independently.”

Yoder isn’t pursuing graduate school because she dislikes the culture of industry research, but because she wants to return to it, ideally in the medical field. Inspired by a talk she heard from Andrew Mesecar, professor of biochemistry and director of Purdue’s Institute for Cancer Research, about how his work is changing the approaches and outcomes of cancer research.

Although the diagnostic research she undertook this summer pertained to vegetation, Yoder said at the molecular and biochemical level it's very similar to biomedical work.

“My favorite project was actually antibody conjugation for a specific genetic trait and trying to improve that process,” Yoder said. “That’s something you also could end up doing in a medical lab.”

Yoder now feels comfortable in private sector laboratories, fluent in the standard operating procedures and protocols. Her enhanced ease in the lab setting is something she knows will serve her well in graduate school and beyond.

Most impressive to Yoder about lab work in industry is the speed at which everything moves. While at EnviroLogix, she observed products and solutions move from ideas on a whiteboard to experimentation and then to the output stage.

“That’s the main difference I’ve noticed coming from a university,” she added. “At EnviroLogix there’s also a stronger focus on scaling up. We’re always keeping in mind how a customer is going to use this product, how it's going to impact their experience, their livelihood. And even though you may just be in a lab you can sense you’re part of something much bigger.”

Bryn works in biochemistry lab in Maine.
Microscope in a labratory.
Bryn, Biochemistry student stands in front of sign for internship.

In addition to extensive lab experience, Yoder was able to shadow several different coworkers at EnviroLogix, gaining an appreciation for the nuances of the different roles that exist at biotech companies.

“Bryn worked with a variety of scientists here, learning as much as she could from each person and each department,” Konstantin reflected. “But this experience has been essential for me as well. Bryn helped me become a better teacher, a better mentor.”

Konstantin also made sure Yoder got the most out of her time in Maine, inviting her mentee to her lake house and flagging all the must-visit spots in and around Portland.

Yoder, who is from Georgia, had never been to Maine, but she was already in adventure mode as she arrived fresh off her semester abroad in Florence, Italy.

“In Florence, I took a bunch of classes that might not be considered academically rigorous, like sculpture and a food and culture class. It all gave me a much deeper appreciation for living a balanced life. Oh, and for food! But I also discovered I missed being in a lab.”

During her stay in Portland, Yoder found a balance between activities that stimulate her intellectually and those that nurture her soul. She spent her free time exploring the downtown restaurant scene, the rocky coastline of Southern Maine, and browsing the many local farmers markets. It was the perfect balance, Yoder said, to prepare her for the busy semester ahead.

Now that Yoder is set on graduate school, she will be submitting applications while taking on a full course load, working as a tour guide on campus, participating in her sorority, and running the Department of Biochemistry’s Instagram page, which she does “for fun.”

Despite the impending whirlwind, Yoder feels calm, the kind of tranquility that comes with identifying a purpose and knowing how to achieve it. This summer, she said, had a lot to do with that.

Ever since I was young, I’ve wanted to help people. For a while, I wasn’t sure what that looked like, but I’ve found I can have a massive impact on humanity and society through research. I feel grateful that I can participate in that.

- Bryn Yoder, senior in biochemistry

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