Hello! My name is Kyr Goyette, and I’m a sophomore working with Dr. Zuzana Swigonova to create 3-D printed and digital models of proteins to be used as teaching aids in college settings throughout the country. The Chancellor’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship from the Frederick Honors College is allowing me to complete this research, and I’m so excited to have this opportunity.
I took Dr. Swigonova’s honors biology course last year and experienced firsthand how helpful these types of models are and, through speaking with Dr. Swigonova and other individuals involved with the project, learned how lacking these types of teaching resources are for professors at the college level compared to the availability of teaching aids for less advanced courses. As a pre-medical student, understanding biology is essential and I saw how much some of my friends struggled in classes where they didn’t have access to these types of models.
I’m hoping that I can help bring more accessible and interactive teaching tools to biology and chemistry classes so that professors have more resources with which to teach, so that students with kinesthetic learning styles have better access to the types of learning that work for them, and so that all students can benefit from the well-researched benefits of kinesthetic learning.
Although the 3-D printed models are most beneficial for tactile interactions, I also want to work on expanding the digital library of models so that students have access to the structures outside of the classroom setting as it isn’t currently feasible to provide them to students for use outside of this setting and I think it’s important to ensure that students studying online retain access to the same resources as everyone else.
As I mentioned, I’m a pre-medical student but my path to becoming a doctor is probably going to be a little less conventional. I recently decided that I would be pursuing an MD/PhD after realizing that I wanted the time to pursue research in the field of medical anthropology before beginning my career as a practicing doctor. Some reading and preliminary research over the past two years has driven my interest in studying online chronic illness communities and understanding how communication within these groups affect participating patients’ attitudes towards the medical system and experiences within it. A number of these communities are for patients with neurological conditions and a number of patients also suffer from psychiatric conditions, a fact that I hope will also help me in my desired career as a neuropsychiatrist.
None of this seems to connect particularly well to my interest in creating these 3-D models, but there are several reasons that I chose this as my first longer-term research project. First, I will still be attending medical school which means that a more in-depth knowledge of several of the proteins involved in critical cellular processes will undoubtedly benefit me. I’m hoping that I can work on improving my understanding of three-dimensional protein function and particularly how these proteins interact with other structures in the cell. Second, part of my anthropological interests concern, in large part, the way that information is created and disseminated in medical context, and part of this knowledge creation happens in the creation of teaching aids. I’m hoping that participation in this process will give me insights that will be helpful later in my anthropological research, and also help me better understand biomolecular interactions later on when they become more relevant in my medical education.
I say all of this, but I’m constantly finding new fields to be interested in. I spent three weeks this summer on an archeological research project in Wyoming thanks to a Frederick Honors College program, and I’m currently planning a trip to do paleoethnobotany research in Mongolia next summer. Part of my investment in research that is so far from my intended field of study is based in a desire to learn as much as I can about as many fields as possible so that, when I eventually make my choice, I’m confident that it’s the right one. I’m looking forward to everything I’m going to get to learn this semester thanks to the CURF and Dr. Swigonova!