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Biochemistry Spotlight

Sydney Blevins: A Pioneer Seeking New Frontiers

“I chose to attend Transylvania because I wanted a small school where I would have my own identity and not be lost in a sea of thousands of students. I wanted to get to know my professors, be involved on campus, and to feel like I belonged to a family. I also wanted to be challenged academically and have the opportunity to take interesting classes that I might not get at larger schools.”

Rarely a day goes by that Sydney Blevins '10 doesn't hope to learn something new and exciting as a second-year graduate student at the University of Notre Dame. Likewise, there is rarely a day that Blevins doesn't give Transylvania credit for encouraging her unquenchable thirst for learning.

“That has been one of my biggest advantages in graduate school, because I am constantly faced with new and challenging material, and if I hadn't developed the desire to learn and persevere (at Transylvania) I would not be successful,” said Blevins, who is in Notre Dame's chemistry and biochemistry doctoral program.

Blevins, the first biochemistry major to graduate from Transylvania, is researching interactions of proteins involved in the immune system, some of which are potential targets for cancer immunotherapy. Once she's finished with that program, she plans to spend a few more years conducting research as a post-doctoral fellow.

“I really enjoy working in a lab because it allows me to immerse myself in all of the finer details of complex biological processes like the immune response,” she said.

Then Blevins wants to teach, possibly at a college like Transylvania, where small class sizes, collaboration with professors, rigorous writing requirements, and a close-knit community are important in preparing students for whatever future path they choose.

“Going to school at Transy was one of the best decisions I ever made,” said Blevins. “The four years I spent there helped me transform into a confident, open-minded, and well-educated adult.”

As a professor herself, Blevins will likely recall the impact that chemistry professor Eva Csuhai had on her as both a student and a scientist.

“It was my first chemistry class with her that initially had me captivated with chemistry, and she was such an excellent teacher whose enthusiasm and detailed descriptions of our class material sparked my desire to become a professor myself,” Blevins said. “Dr. Csuhai also taught me that it is important for scientists to have interests outside of science. She taught a May term course that was a mixture of gardening and the philosophy and poetic accounts of gardening and sustainability, which was really fun.”

Blevins will also likely model her teaching techniques after those of philosophy professor Ellen Cox. “Her philosophy class taught me the most about understanding how to have productive and educational discussions about topics with which I am not familiar. She also taught me how to think outside of the scientific-minded box I tended to occupy and to explore ideas that appear to be far-fetched or impossible,” she said.

“While both of these professors really impacted my academic thought processes, every professor I had at Transylvania helped me develop my sense of curiosity and my desire to learn,” Blevins added.

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