Photo by matt d'annunzio

Will Horner ’15

biology

Hometown: Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Who I was when I got to Reed: A kid from a small mountain town with a graduating class of 20.

How Reed changed me: I’m much more culturally and intellectually aware and particularly well equipped to engage in discussion.

Word to prospies: Reed makes you work hard but it’s also incredibly rewarding. You’ll also find your people here and they’ll get you through all the tough times.

Favorite class: German 220. Sometimes I just want to read short stories and learn funny words.

Influential professor: Prof. Kara Cerveny [biology 2012– ] taught me how to think critically and how to manage my time, and she taught me the fundamentals of being a researcher. She really built up my confidence.

A concept that blew my mind: I learned about chirality in organic chemistry and have never looked at my hands the same way. [Note to non-science majors: chiral molecules have identical composition, but are essentially mirror images of each other.]

Outside the classroom: I helped run the nuclear reactor—that was pretty much the coolest thing I’ve done. Won the John Van Zytveld Award in the Life Sciences for a presentation I gave on my research.

Obstacles I overcame: Prof. Alan Shusterman [chemistry 1989–] helped me realize that the only thing in the way of my learning was myself. After working many, many long nights in the library, I finally put the pieces together and realized that I’m capable of much more than I first thought.

Thesis: Retinoic Acid Signaling and Retinal Ganglion Cell Neurogenesis in the Developing Zebrafish

What it’s about: I’m investigating the role of retinoic acid in the formation of neurons in the retina. I use mutant zebrafish with expanded retinoic acid signaling and treat them with retinoic acid agonists or antagonists. With confocal microscopy, I’m able to study how retinoic acid interacts with other signaling pathways and influences the development of new neurons. 

What it’s really about: I shoot lasers at mutant fish eyes. They glow. I take pictures.

What’s next: Going to Germany to study German and do a biology internship through the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange.

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