Alex Hurley ’14 researches at Carnegie Mellon with NSF
With school back in session at Centre, students who spent the summer doing internships and research are putting their experiences to good use. Alex Hurley ’14 knows that the time he spent in a lab this summer will benefit him immensely at Centre and beyond.
Hurley recently completed summer research at Carnegie Mellon University with help and financial support from the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF-REU).
The opportunity to do research at Carnegie Mellon was presented to Hurley through a Centre connection.
“I am a biology major at Centre and really wanted to find a top-notch research experience for the summer. Kenny McMahon ’12, a fellow biology major, recommended the NSF-REU,” Hurley says. “They fund research programs at universities all over America and have a great reputation. Kenny actually participated in one of these programs at the University of Nebraska. I applied to half a dozen of these REUs around the country and found myself accepting the offer from Carnegie Mellon University.”
Hurley worked in a proteomics lab at the Mellon Institute studying the structures and functions of proteins. His research looked specifically at Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD), which can cause serious complications for people with rheumatoid arthritis.
“In a nutshell, I was working on a project that sought to find a way to predict the onset of lung diseases in rheumatoid arthritis patients by looking for specific proteins in blood samples,” Hurley says. “This involved both working at the bench and analyzing the data we collected, so it was a nice balance.”
Learning opportunities outside of the lab gave Hurley a new perspective on his plans for the future.
“The program that I was a part of held weekly seminars designed to give students more information about graduate school and to help them decide if it is right for them. These seminars gave me a lot of perspective on my future decisions,” he says. “While I am not entirely sure what I would like to do after Centre, I feel like I will ultimately make a more informed decision with this new knowledge.”
Beyond his research, Hurley particularly enjoyed the people he met at Carnegie Mellon.
“The best part of the experience was the research environment. Everyone I met on CMU’s campus seemed to be a part of one research project or another, and when I asked them about their work, I was often blown away by the content of their response,” Hurley says.
Now back on campus, Hurley credits Centre and his time here with aiding him in finding and being successful in the NSF-REU program.
“The Brown Fellows program helped motivate me to find a find a program such as this and kept me organized along the way,” Hurley says. “I am certainly indebted to Centre for preparing me for an opportunity such as this.”