PhD Candidate, MCDB
MS Candidate in DCMB
OGPS: What is your academic and research background?
Nye: I grew up in Benzie County, a small beautiful area in rural Northern Michigan. I attended both Benzie Central High School and an engineering/manufacturing-based program called the Manufacturing Technology Academy. After graduating I started at the University of Michigan studying microbiology. The transition from Benzie to UM was not easy for me and I struggled in my first couple of years at University. At the beginning of my third year I took a molecular biology course and was given the opportunity to start research in the Simmons Lab. This experience completely transformed my outlook on my college experience. I didn’t know what a ‘PhD’ was before joining the Simmons Lab but I found myself applying to programs all over the nation just a year later. Ultimately I chose to stay in Ann Arbor, where my three younger siblings have or are currently working on their degrees, to continue my research in the Simmons Lab.
OGPS: How did you decide what you wanted to do in your science career?
Nye: My path has really been directed and influenced by terrific mentors. I was able to see how my mentors were continually engaged with what they love, namely microbiology and discovery, while striving to improve the lives of others in any way that they could. I knew I too loved exploring biology and helping people so I was thrilled to find a career path where I could really pursue both of those ends.
OGPS: Describe one of your current research initiatives that you are most excited about and why.
Nye: We have a collaboration with Dr. Mike Watson’s group in Pediatrics Infectious Disease here at the University. Through our collaboration we are studying how an immune system from the bacteria that causes strep throat can also function in helping the bacteria to hide from the immune response of its host. I love how the work marries the importance of basic biological and clinical research approaches. The work also provides a new perspective on these bacterial immune systems, which have been studied for a long time and are generally well-characterized systems. Additionally, I find something amusing about a bacterial immune system regulating a response to its host immune system.
OGPS: What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Nye: The accomplishment that I am most proud of is our outreach work with the biology program from Benzie Central. Over the past 5 years, my PI, Lyle Simmons, and former high school teacher, Racquel Huddleston, have worked to bring resources and opportunities to students from Benzie Central High School. There are so many talented students from rural communities that can contribute to the academic and diversity initiatives at UM, but we need to make sure we bridge socioeconomic divides to get those students to campus first. As a scientist I am happy to work as hard as I can to contribute to the field, but I think my greatest contribution will be laying a foundation for other students’ success.
OGPS: What is one piece of advice you would give new PhD students?
Nye: One piece of advice I would give to aspiring scientists is to embrace failure and recognize that “failure” actually does move science forward. In science we have this amazing burden – we’re trying to create knowledge that does not yet exist. It is unlikely that cookie-cutter examples and textbook answers will suffice, and if they do you may question the importance of the research direction. A natural extension of this is that we need to expect a fair degree of failure. In the same vein, we need to recognize that failure allows for scientific progression. Also, constantly challenging oneself with new approaches and biological problems will produce its fair share of duds.
OGPS: What do you like to do outside of the lab?
Nye: I have many obsessions outside of science. I am a huge fan of everything written by Lin-Manuel Miranda or anything that is remotely related to the Harry Potter series. I love doing crosswords with my partner, reading philosophy, working out, and playing the piano. Above all, I love spending time with my friends and family.
OGPS: What are your future goals?
Nye: In the immediate future I hope to finish up my dissertation work and move on to an academic post doc position studying some aspect of bacterial chromosome structure and/or gene regulation. I also hope to see Hamilton and buy the 6,000+ piece Harry Potter LEGO set. My primary long-term goals are to lead a research lab somewhere in the state of Michigan and to promote diversity initiatives with a focus on students from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds. Additionally, I hope to advocate for improved mental health awareness and practices in Academia throughout my career. I also hope to rescue a black pit bull mix and name it Severus.