Robert Alexander '06

Alexander, Robert 01

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Major

Full-time research assistant and part-time Ph.D. student employed by University College London (part of the University of London system)

Current projects

Investigating the local, extra-hepatic, production of coagulation factors in the lung and how they may influence the aetiology and/or progression of lung fibrosis

Undergraduate Research

Summer project student with Dr. Dearolf investigating the effect of maternal steroid treatment on the composition and function of neonatal breathing muscles

How Hendrix prepared me for success

My education at Hendrix prepared me for undertaking a PhD in two ways. The liberal arts style system helped me learn to think creatively and critically about both my research and any problems I encounter while pursuing it. I consider this to be the most fundamental skill I gained while at Hendrix; I not only gained knowledge but, importantly, the ability to effectively apply it. More directly, I consider my undergraduate research project with Dr. Dearolf to be the seminal moment when I realized that research was something I feel passionate about. It directly inspired me to undertake postgraduate education and to pursue a career in research. During my summer project I learned about both the everyday realities of research and the overarching idea of a project. I learned not only specific research techniques but how to construct an experiment, how to analyze data, how to present my results, and how to determine why data do not always match with hypotheses. These are skills that I use every day in my research.

Future plans

To finish my PhD and, potentially to go to medical school. While researching a human pathology on a basic science level, I have become more and more interested in pursuing translational research (applying research findings to directly benefit patients in the clinic). A medical degree coupled with a PhD, while certainly daunting in terms of time and effort, would combine technical knowledge with the ability to apply the principles of empiricism for the benefit of patients.

My advice

Remember that the most important part of your Hendrix education is not the specific pieces of knowledge you will gain. The most important things you will learn are the ability to construct an argument, the ability to think critically about issues and problems, and the ability to apply specific knowledge to your individual goals. All of these are what I consider to be mental flexibility. I meet people all the time who are very knowledgeable on their specific subject of interest. They leave something to be desired, however, when the topic changes to something esoteric. They lack the mental flexibility that I and many of my friends gained at Hendrix.