Schreyer Scholar a rare undergraduate contributor to international journal

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Researchers are constantly working to get their efforts and findings published.

Schreyer Honors College Scholar Ryan Henrici has been published before, but recently he earned second authorship in Nature, an international weekly journal of science.

“It’s incredibly gratifying and rewarding knowing that my work has been recognized as significant science that can impact researchers around the globe,” Henrici said.

Now a senior, the biochemistry and molecular biology major has been working as a part of a team since his freshman year after reaching out to Song Tan, a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology.

“I read about the work his laboratory does and concluded that I was interested in at least trying to meet him,” Henrici said. “Shortly after our first meeting, I joined the laboratory. I have been working there ever since.”

After learning the ropes in the lab, Henrici was assigned to join the research project the following year.

“He was just a sophomore, but he really proved himself to be quite extraordinary in the lab,” Tan said. “He’s been functioning as a graduate student or even at a higher level, and he’s been able to do that because he’s really smart, he works really hard and he has a great attitude.”

Mother's illness encourages undergrad to enter research field

Doctors told the Henrici family that their matriarch was suffering from multiple sclerosis, but the resulting treatments didn't seem to help her condition. Ryan, who was a high school swimmer, was looking to continue swimming in college, but felt a conviction to find a way to help his mother. After a family friend and doctor correctly diagnosed his mother, he felt led to change his career path. Ryan was looking for a large research institution with high academic standards. He found Penn State. Studying biochemistry & molecular biology, Ryan will graduate and seek to become a medical researcher, ultimately becoming a medical doctor.

C Roy Parker

When results came in, the research group turned to Nature, knowing it is the preeminent scientific journal. “We knew that our work and results were a momentous achievement for the field of chromatin biology and gene regulation,” Henrici said.

Currently, the article has more than 5,000 views and counting.

Since coming to Penn State, Henrici has made the most of his time, picking up several accolades along the way.

He received the Barry M. Goldwater and Astronaut scholarships, both of which are national awards given to students pursuing research in science, mathematics and engineering.

“One of the important things that he did was to join a laboratory very early on in his career,” Ruth Mendum, director of the University Fellowship Office, said. “That’s important because there’s a difference between learning received knowledge and learning how new knowledge is created. That capacity both to master material and then to understand enough about a particular field, where that field is going and what it will take to answer the most fundamental questions is the heart of what it takes to win a Goldwater or an Astronaut.”

Henrici stays busy when he’s not in the laboratory by working with THON. This fall, he was also named to the 2014 Penn State Homecoming Court.

Currently, Henrici is applying for postgraduate scholarships, including Rhodes and Marshall. He plans to pursue a doctorate in immunology and infectious disease in the United Kingdom and return to America for medical school.

While in the U.K., he wants to study malaria and spend time working in disease-endemic countries.

“Ultimately, I hope to become a physician-scientist bridging the laboratory and clinic to improve patients’ and families’ lives beyond the current abilities of modern medicine,” he said. “My life goal is to tackle pediatric infectious-disease wherever it hides around the world.”

With everything he has been able to accomplish and what he plans to do next, Henrici said there was a clear reason why he chose to attend Penn State.

“I came to Penn State because I knew I would not be limited by resources,” he said. “I knew as a senior in high school that college is the optimal time to learn and develop into whoever I want to become.”

Applying to become a Schreyer Honors College Scholar was also a part of who he wanted to become. “I applied to the honors college because of its stated goals of engagement and global perspective,” Henrici said.

He said he wanted to find a way to distinguish himself and find his place and calling quickly; Schreyer Honors College is the best opportunity with its extensive resources, advising and peer collaboration.

“I think students should come to Penn State and Schreyer Honors College for similar reasons,” he said. “As a Scholar at Penn State, there is absolutely nothing that can hold you back from your dreams except yourself.”

To view Henrici’s work in Nature, click here.

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Last Updated January 09, 2015