Research at Hendrix

Robert English '95

English, Robert 02

Chemistry major

Senior Scientist, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas

Highlight quote

"Doing undergraduate research allowed me to discover that I enjoyed doing research, and it motivated me to pursue graduate school and earn my Ph.D. in analytical chemistry."  

Current projects

I am a senior scientist in a laboratory that specializes in mass spectrometry, an instrument used in various applications and across many scientific disciplines, where the mass of molecules needs to be weighed. This mass measurement can be directly correlated to identities of compounds ranging from proteins important in medical research to toxins in water, to name but a few. I write and co-write research publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals, and have authored a mass spectrometry chapter in a Development of Therapeutic Agents volume in a book series of Handbooks in Pharmaceutical Science to be published later this year. I attend one or two conferences a year in my field, and give oral or poster presentations at these conferences if we have any findings to present.

Undergraduate Research

I had the privilege of working with Dr. David Hales at Hendrix when he was first starting his undergraduate research program. In the summers of 1993 and 1994, and as an independent study project during my senior year in 1994-95, I helped design and build the first version of his mass spectrometer, an instrument that basically measures the mass of molecules. It was during this time that I not only got a taste of doing scientific research, but also discovered a life-long passion in this area of chemistry in which I have been building my career. I tremendously enjoyed my undergraduate research experience, and feel very fortunate I was given an opportunity that has shaped my professional career.

How Hendrix prepared me for success

Doing undergraduate research allowed me to discover that I enjoyed doing research, and it motivated me to pursue graduate school and earn my Ph.D. in analytical chemistry at Texas A&M University in 2001. I continued my post-doctoral research in this field at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where I was able to contribute to two patents in mass spectrometry instrumentation, then went on to a visiting scientist program at the FBI Research Unit in Quantico, Va. I landed at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas, in a service mass spectrometry laboratory. We collaborate with researchers around the country to help them identify proteins that may be responsible for different diseases in their specific research. I have to say that my Hendrix experience prepared me very well for my current role in both my career and personal life.

Future plans

Student life at Hendrix definitely shaped who I am today. I learned four things that have paid off in my overall life experience: hard work ethic, community, life/work balance, and volunteerism.

My advice

You may tire of hearing this, but cherish your time while in college and learn as much as humanly possible. When you go out and continue your education and careers, you will want to fall back on your experiences gained at Hendrix, home, and elsewhere to help guide you through all the decisions you will make in the rest of your life. In my service to community, I have learned that persistence pays off, even if you do not have all the answers, never be afraid to ask as many questions as possible because you will learn so much along the way! Almost every single day I think about the well-rounded education I received at Hendrix, and for that I will always be thankful.