I met over zoom with the Molecular and Cellular Biology 2021 Excellence in Research Award winner Ryan Hecksel, recently to find out more about his undergraduate experience and his research.
“It is always an honor to be recognized by others for personal work and it means a lot to me to win this award! I am confident that my undergraduate experience has set a strong foundation for successful future endeavors.” Hecksel told me about winning the award."
Why did you choose UA?
My grandpa lives in Tucson and I was in Tucson to visit him when I was a senior in high school. I did a campus visit because I was here. I didn't have the University of Arizona on my list of college choices at the time! I visited other campuses and this was the only one I liked! I fell in love with the campus when visiting; I love the architecture and the whole campus is cohesive and goes well together.
Why did you choose MCB?
I've always been interested in science and I was inspired by my high school science teachers. I wanted to continue studying science in college.
I was originally a chemistry major and figured out that I wasn't very good at calculus! I changed my major to biology, but once I started taking upper division classes, I discovered Molecular and Cellular Biology and changed my major to MCB. I loved the upper division MCB courses! After taking a lot of courses, I realized I could also have a biochemistry minor if I took two more classes which I was already planning on taking. I will graduate with a BS in Molecular and Cellular Biology with a minor in Biochemistry.
When, where and how did you find your passion for science?
It was an AP chemistry class in high school. I liked AP Chemistry because it was the first challenging science class for me and it pushed the boundaries of what I knew about science and chemistry and it was intellectually stimulating. I fell in love with science, the material and the thought process.
Your Research Experience:
I work in the lab of Dr. Streicher investigating the pharmacological mechanisms and potential therapeutic applications of terpenes found in C. sativa. I really love research because it allows me to practice what I learn in class in a new way. I enjoy the lab environment and my colleagues in the lab are amazing! I have always been in Dr. Streicher’s lab - since Jan 2019. Initially I sent him an email to express interest in joining lab then I applied to UBRP got in summer of 2019. I have stayed in UBRP until now.
What has been your best experience at UA?
Attending the basketball games in person! I love the energy and excitement of McKale Center; it's so loud and fun and be a part of the student crowd section.
My best experienced academically have been working in Dr. Streicher’s lab and taking MCB 325 (The Biology of Cancer) and MCB 425 (Cancer Discoveries).
What skill have you learned that you think will be most useful when you graduate?
Critical thinking and being able to look at data, analyze it and draw conclusions from it. This has helped me in my lab work and helps me interpret journal papers. Critical thinking will also help me in my future career as a scientist.
What are your plans post-graduation?
I will be staying here at the University of Arizona in the ABBS program to pursue a PhD, likely in molecular biology or cancer biology.
What would you say to a high school student considering The University of Arizona and a science major?
I definitely highly recommend it! The science education you can get here is top notch; it's the best science education in the state of AZ! I've been nothing but supported at the University and in my science classes.
What are your hobbies and interests outside school?
I like to go hiking and camping. I really like hiking in the desert and I like playing video games.
Hecksel also recorded a video message for his 2021 graduating class which you can view here.