Avery Van Duzer ’18

First-gen biochemist peered into the eye of the zebrafish.

September 1, 2018

Hometown: Bend, Oregon

Thesis adviser: Prof. Kara Cerveny [biology 2012–]

Thesis: Signaling Interactions Between FGF and RA in the Developing Zebrafish Retina.

What it’s about: I looked at the interactions between two signaling molecules in the developing zebrafish retina. One molecule (fibroblast growth factor) promotes growth, while the other (retinoic acid) promotes differentiation. We think that the two pathways regulate each other in some way, and it results in a balance between growth and differentiation.

What it’s really about: Taking beautiful fluorescent pictures of zebrafish eyes.

On my first day of class: I remember being so excited to be surrounded by people who were just as excited as I was to be learning at Reed.

Cool stuff: I got to have my gut microbiome sequenced for the Human Microbiome seminar taught by Prof. Jay Mellies [biology 1999–]. Everyone in the class was able to compare our results, which was fascinating (and a little scary). I worked in the admission office for three years and loved meeting with the prospective students, because they are all so excited about Reed.

Obstacles I have overcome: I had no idea what I was doing my first couple of years here—I’m the first generation to go to college in my family. Learning to go to tutoring and developing close relationships with professors really saved me.

Influential book: A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid. It made me think a lot about global tourism and how I consume information.

Concept that blew my mind: You only have to fold a piece of paper 42 times in order for it to reach to the moon.

Favorite class: If thesis counts as a class then it is definitely thesis. I loved being able to approach a research question, and problem solve along the way. I also really enjoyed working with Kara, my thesis adviser, and everyone else in her lab. Everyone is always very supportive of each other and we are all trying to answer our questions together.

How Reed changed me: I have learned both how to listen to others better and how to assert myself so that I am listened to when I have something important to say.

Financial aid: I am continually grateful for the countless opportunities that financial aid has provided me. It would have been impossible for me to attend Reed without it.

What’s next: I spent the summer in Kara’s lab expanding on the research that I conducted for my thesis. Now, I am working as a Research Assistant in the Oshimori Lab at OHSU investigating cellular signaling in stem cell and skin cancer microenvironments.

Desired superpower: The ability to remember anything that I want.

Actual superpower: The ability to remember useless information.

Pet peeve: Cold tomato sauce.