Grad student to present his research, talents

NMU+biology+graduate+student+Ryan+Brandt+has+been+researching+neurological+disorders+for+his+thesis+project%2C+and+will+present+his+findings+at+a+public+seminar.+%0APhoto+courtesy+of+Ryan+Brandt.

NMU biology graduate student Ryan Brandt has been researching neurological disorders for his thesis project, and will present his findings at a public seminar. Photo courtesy of Ryan Brandt.

Kelsii Kyto

After four years of studying mice and honing his guitar skills, 28-year-old graduate student Ryan Brandt is ready to present his biology thesis research and musical talents to the world.

His public seminar entitled “The Characterization of Behavioral Abnormalities in BDNF Loxp Transgenic Mice,” will explain his findings in the study of proteins crucial for brain development and how they are connected to certain neurological disorders. The presentation will be at 1 p.m. today in the Mead Auditorium in West Science.

Brandt plans to make his presentation understandable to people of all studies and also engaging for the audience, even including a guitar performance, Brandt said.

Ultimately, the research is intended to better understand disorders such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Brandt and his team of researchers continue to attempt to compare the pathology of these diseases to the lack of proteins in the skeletal muscle. This is performed by removing a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) from the skeletal muscle of mice.

“We are extremely passionate about this. We’re really trying to uncover the pathologies for really debilitating diseases, some of the worst diseases you could ever be diagnosed with. You wouldn’t want to have your worst enemy diagnosed with ALS,” Brandt said.

Science isn’t Brandt’s only passion. He is also a guitarist for the local funk band Lumi. Brandt and the band are playing this Saturday at the Ore Dock, and also plan to record an album soon, Brandt said. But he also plans to incorporate his knack for entertaining into the thesis presentation, combining art and science, which is something he said he does “constantly.”

Brandt’s pursuit of thesis research and music have been mutually helpful to his understanding of both fields, he said, and now it feels like his dedication is paying off.

“Focusing so hard and working so hard toward something has also developed a better work ethic for me…” Brandt said. “To actually get significant results, learn how to be a scientist and all the gains I’ve had, all the people I’ve met, all these experiences of my music and science progression and having it all come together right now, is a pretty incredible thing.”

As a student in a thesis-based graduate program, Brandt had to plan and complete this research project, as well as pass several steps of scrutinization. In addition to his public presentation, Brandt will also have to defend his findings before a committee. The prospect of having to answer questions on the spot is extremely nerve-wracking, Brandt said.

“At the end of the day, this is the master’s [degree], but I mean I did a lot of work and I’ve been here for a long time,” Brandt said. “It’s kind of testing, ‘Are you ready to become an equal, are you ready to be considered a true academic?’”