Name: Bryce Nicholls
Year: Class of 2018
Hometown: Alberton, South Africa
Campus Activities: African Students Association Founder, MSSC Tutor, Research, Delta Tau Delta, REACH Tutor, ACS
Favorite Dance Floor Jam: “Working For It”- Zhu
Hey Bryce, thanks for meeting with me! First question: how did you end up at Kenyon?
I knew I wanted to come to America because my brother got his MBA in Arizona. In high school I worked a lot with the US Embassy in South Africa, and they gave me a list of schools with financial aid. At the time I was really interested in neuroscience, so I cross referenced the list I was given with schools that had neuroscience programs, and Kenyon was one of them.
Do you like the States? What was the biggest culture shock for you?
Yes and no. There are some things that I like and some things that I miss. I like how friendly people are here. I also love how many resources there are. There is just a better infrastructure set up here for research. Reading culture in the U.S. was a big culture shock. We just don’t read as much in South Africa, so where there are classic books like “Harry Potter” that every American child has read, I never have. Also, proximity to talking was a big shift. Americans like their personal space.
What do you miss the most about back home?
I miss the food and the way the air smelled just before a storm. I know it’s weird, but African rains are so beautiful. The rain here is sticky, and it just doesn’t have the same effect.
Did you always want to pursue Biochemistry?
No, in high school I really wanted to be an actor. I was cast for a professional play, but it didn’t end up working out. Then, I wanted to be a doctor, but it was only very recently that I decided I wanted to be a chemist.
How did you end up in Matt Rouhier’s lab?
He was my intro chem professor. It was not only my first semester at Kenyon, but it was his as well. One day he walked in and he had a mosquito on his mug; he was just chatting with me about class, and I asked what the mosquito was for. He explained to me the research that he does in inhibiting mosquito transporters. I asked him if I could join his lab, and he said he didn’t have one. I was his first student. We basically created the lab together.
What research are you doing now?
I try to help grow the research on pesticides by changing different functional groups on molecules to see how that affects toxicity within mosquitos. It’s half organic synthesis, half mosquito injection. My day to day really is injecting mosquitoes with different dyes. You have to put the mosquito on ice so it becomes drowsy. Then, you wake it up a bit, and you inject it with things. It’s basically like injecting it with new blood, which is really cool because if you kill it, you don’t see blood. Instead you see purple dye that you just injected. The real world implication of my research would be to make a pesticide enhancer and help cure a vector borne disease such as malaria or zika.
How has your research evolved since you’ve been working in the lab?
Oh boy. In the beginning, we were just injecting random compounds that we found, and we had no idea what we were focusing on. We went through any and every dye that we could get our hands on. Now we’re much more focused. I’m doing organic synthesis too, which is a totally different thing entirely from my previous work. The lab has grown to ten or eleven people too!
What are your thoughts as far as post-grad plans?
My plan is to go straight to graduate school. There’s a Visa constraint as far as trying to get into a lab or something post-grad, so the easiest thing to do is just go straight into a PhD program. I want to do organic synthesis with a biological focus, and I want to be working on the front lines with disease treatment and prevention. I’m really interested in malaria right now.
So, you’re our “campus cutie” this week. Tell us, what makes someone a ‘campus cutie’ in your eyes?
I really like girls that are smarter and more independent than me, and typically I like introverted girls. I want to say more well read, politically active, “woke.” I love a girl with enthusiasm (or someone who can keep up with mine) and someone whose passion is all consuming.
If you were to have a movie made about your life. Would it be animated or live action, and who would play you?
It would be live action. It would be a film noir. Who’s the guy who played Steven Hawking in the Steven Hawking movie? Oh, Eddie Redmayne! He would play me.
Do you have anything else that you’d like to say?
Go to the MSSC!
Thanks so much for talking with us Bryce!
Image Credit: Bryce Nicholls