Biochemistry and Cell Biology
Rice graduate student Erin O’Brien works hard to achieve balance between her work and personal time. “I make sure I complete all my lab work during the week to have time for activities such as spending time with family, fishing, running, kayaking and attending Aggie football games.” O’Brien feels this is absolutely necessary to being a successful graduate student.
A Texas native, Erin received her undergraduate degree from Texas A&M in biochemistry and genetics, with a minor in mathematics. She felt that Rice was the best choice for graduate school—“I was impressed by the diverse faculty within the Biochemistry and Cell Biology program, while also having access to a large collection of labs within the Texas Medical Center.”
O’Brien is currently working with professors Matthew Bennett and Mike Gustin, both from the Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology. She is studying the white-opaque bistable switch in the human pathogen, Candida albicans. She plans to continue working in the “synthetic biology” area—her ‘dream job’ would be principal investigator at the National Cancer Institute within the Office of Physical Science Oncology. “I would like to continue to use microfluidic techniques and mathematical modeling to address important biological questions within the cancer biology field.”
O’Brien has been surprised by the support that graduate students have from all areas of campus and how easy it is to become involved at Rice. She is currently the Community Service Chair for the Graduate Student Association and has thoroughly enjoyed implementing different service programs at Rice. O’Brien and Elizabeth Van Itallie, an undergraduate in BCB, were recently awarded an Envision Grant to begin the Partnership of Women in Science and Engineering which will promote relationships of women in science and engineering from undergraduates to tenured professors.