Will Horner


September 1, 2015

Hometown: Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Adviser: Prof. Kara Cerveny [biology 2012–]

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.

Who I was when I got to Reed: I was a kid from a small mountain town and a graduating class of 20. Reed is kind of small, but still large and varied enough that there’s always something new to find.

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

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

Influential music: One day I happened on this country radio station playing, “Something About a Truck.” The gist of the song is that there’s something about a truck. I kept listening to bad country music because when I’m in the lab I want to listen to something fun and a little bit ridiculous.

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: Running the nuclear reactor—that was pretty much the coolest thing I’ve done. House adviser in Naito. Won the John Van Zytveld Award in the Life Sciences for a presentation I gave on my research.

Obstacles I overcame: Halfway through the first semester of organic chemistry things were getting pretty bad, but 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.

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

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

What you would tell prospies: Reed makes you work hard but it’s also incredibly rewarding. Conference learning enables you to converse with other people, think about your own opinions in the context of theirs, and then consider how everything fits together. You’ll also find your people here and they’ll get you through all the tough times.