Nathan Burns, Kardon Lab (Human Genetics)
Tell me a little about yourself. Where are you from, what degree(s) do you have? What are your interests?
I'm originally from North Canton, Ohio. I went to Miami University (Ohio, not Florida) and majored in biochemistry and minored in molecular biology. Before coming to Utah, I worked at the NIH for 2 years as a postbac research fellow in Bethesda, MD. Since beginning my undergraduate research, I've been very interested in developmental and regenerative biology as well as microscopy.
Why did you choose the U for graduate school?
I was looking for a program that would let me explore different interests in a great academic environment that is also located in a nice location. The ability to explore different departments during the rotations and having really supportive faculty here is really fantastic and not something I was able to find at other places. The proximity to hiking/skiing and having a nice city so close by sealed the deal!
Tell me about your lab. What do you study?
I just joined Dr. Gabrielle Kardon's lab in Human Genetics. The lab studies muscle development and a common birth defect, congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH), as well as muscle regeneration. My thesis work will be investigating the role of retinoic acid signaling in muscle development and how it might be disrupted in CDH.
Why did you choose to join your lab?
I was really interested in the research questions the lab is focusing on, which felt like a great fit to what I wanted to pursue. During my rotation I thought I fit in well with the people I would be working with, and I was also excited about the ideas that we discussed as possible thesis projects that I would be able to work on.
What do you like most about living in Salt Lake City?
The endless outdoor activities that are so close - I can get from my house to the ski lift or hiking trails in 30 minutes! It is easy to organize hikes or camping/backpacking trips with classmates to somewhere close by or to one of the many national parks just a couple of hours away. The city also has great restaurants and bars around, and is an affordable place to live. Also, compared to other places I've lived, there's almost no humidity - a welcome relief!
What do you like the least?
I wasn't really aware of the inversion that happens for a couple of days around here until it happened, but fortunately it only lasts a couple of days.
What do you like most about being a graduate student?
I like all of the opportunities that are available during this time. I'm able to research something I find interesting while also learning a ton in both class and lab. It's a great time to really think about what you want to do as a career, there are so many ways to get involved and explore different things as a graduate student.
What types of things do you do outside of class and lab?
I like to ski and hike as much as I can and have had the opportunity to go camping/backpacking around Utah since I've moved here. I also like spending time with friends, cooking, and am trying to get into photography.
What does a typical weekday look like for you?
I go to lab in the morning and am there for the day. After work, I'll go to the gym and then go home to make dinner and relax for a while. I catch up on homework/lab stuff in the evening if needed. If I'm out early enough or have time during the day, I'll go for a short hike on the trails right behind my building, if not, I go for a walk around my neighborhood and the capitol.
What does a typical weekend look like for you?
I try to be outside doing something as much as I can. My friends and I have found some fun trivia spots around Salt Lake we've been going to and we also have BBQs every now and then.
What advice would you give to someone applying and interviewing for graduate school?
While it's important to find a program that has interesting research you'd be interested in doing, it is just as important to find a good mentor and lab mates, these are people you'll be spending the majority of your time with for the next several years and you need to be able to get along and learn from them. Going off of that, make sure wherever you go to school is a place you can see yourself living for several years! Lastly, if you're able, take some time off to do something fun! A week, month, the whole summer, whatever, you won't regret it.