What is a Reedie, Anyway? (continued)

Photo by Matt D’Annunzio

Tally Levitz biochemistry

Hometown: Wayland, Massachusetts

Adviser: Prof. Arthur Glasfeld [chemistry 1989–]

Thesis: “A Biochemical Characterization of BosR, the Borrelia burgdorferi Oxidative Stress Sensor”

What it’s about: BosR is a protein found in Borrelia burgdorferi (the bacterium that causes Lyme disease) that is thought to protect the bacteria from the mammalian immune system. I’m trying to figure out how this happens by looking at the way BosR interacts with DNA and various metals.

What it’s really about: Finding ways to measure things that we can’t see. (Or: How many treats it takes to befriend my thesis adviser’s dog.)

Who I was when I got to Reed: I had lots of intellectual energy and passion but little direction on how and where to apply that energy. I was excited about doing science and attending Reed.

Influential book: While leading my first orientation trip at Reed I received The Earth Speaks, a collection of quotes, poems and tales. It’s accompanied me on every backpacking trip and outdoor adventure since then.

Favorite spot: There is a waterfall in the canyon that is the perfect place to sit and collect your thoughts. You can watch crayfish in the pools, and in the mornings the light is almost magical.

Random thoughts: I’m kind of a regular at professors’ offices. You can ask, “How am I doing?” or say, “I’m really struggling with this.” And they’ll say, “Yeah, I can tell,” or “Yes, and everyone else is struggling too. This class is hard.” Feedback from professors is more valuable than getting a grade. I know what I’ve gained from a class personally and academically.

Cool stuff I did: I learned to juggle, became a wilderness first responder, camped and skied on the rim of Crater Lake with the Gray Fund, and won an award from the School for Field Studies for research I did on a stream ecosystem while studying abroad in Kenya.

How Reed changed me: Reed challenged my beliefs but simultaneously taught me ways of thinking that allowed me to come to my own conclusions. Doing anything in academics or science is a collaborative process. Excelling is useful, but on your own it is not possible because everything you’re doing is because of other people’s research or work.

What I would tell prospies: Go on as many Gray Fund trips as possible, and if you are committed to an idea, approach people at Reed and ask, “How can I make this happen?” until it does. Few things at Reed are impossible if you are committed to doing the work required to make it happen.

What’s next: Tutoring at Reed impacted both my sense of identity and my future plans. After teaching science in Malawi with the Peace Corps for two years, I’ll either go to veterinary school or pursue a PhD in biochemistry.