From USD to Harvard to Bay Area Pharmaceutical Start-up
Kevin Mellem - Irene, SD
Major: Chemistry, Economics minor
As a USD freshman in 2002, Kevin Mellem decided to try his luck at an introductory physics class. He had not yet declared his major and thought the discipline would fit in nicely with his pre-med studies. The first week of class exposed some shortcomings in Mellem’s academic preparation in that subject, however, so he took a stroll through the honors floor of his freshman dorm to see what his fellow students were doing.
“There were some guys studying for a chemistry quiz, and I though it looked interesting,” Mellem said. He asked the course’s professor, Andy Sykes, now chair of the department, if he could transfer into the course and received a reply in the affirmative, although he would have to hit the ground running and take the quiz at the end of the week. “I took the quiz and did OK and started taking chemistry classes,” he said. “The rest is history.”
Mellem didn’t end up attending medical school after graduating summa cum laude, but instead earned his Ph.D. in chemistry from Harvard University and now works as a scientist at Revolution Medicines, Inc., a startup pharmaceutical company in Redwood City, California.
"Demonstrating enthusiasm for research by asking to get involved is the easiest way to begin a career as a scientific researcher."
Jade Fostvedt - Vermillion, SD
I chose USD because it is a smaller school and an excellent research institution. The small size of the school ensures that I will be given plenty of one-on-one interactions with my professors and my research advisor. Despite its small size, USD is still able to provide students with the opportunity to participate in a variety of research experiences and houses a variety of technical equipment necessary for performing research.
In addition to my studies, I’m also the president of the Chemistry Club, the president and founder of the Book Club and a member of the Honors program.
I had the opportunity to participate in a variety of research during my undergraduate studies. I participated in the Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates program, which introduced me to laboratory techniques and gave me a feel for working in the Chemistry Department. I spent my sophomore year as an undergraduate research assistant in the Hoefelmeyer Lab Group learning how to conduct research in a methodical and precise manner. Under his guidance, I applied for and received a summer research internship at Stanford University through the National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network REU program. Currently, I am participating in the National Student Exchange program and spending a year away from USD studying chemistry at the University of Montana. Prof. James Hoefelmeyer's enthusiasm for research of any type was the inspiration for my involvement in the Chemistry Department. Hoefelmeyer's tireless commitment to his work and the students who work for him has inspired me to not only make chemistry my major, but to pursue a career as a chemistry professor.
"Undergraduate research played an integral part in my experience at USD."
Trevor Kindle - Yankton, SD
I chose USD because it felt like home. I'm inspired by my sister who was a chemistry major at USD and had great things to say about the department.
USD is different than other schools because of the quantity, quality and variety of opportunities that exist within such a relatively small campus. Each and every student has the chance to make a real impact on both a local and worldwide scale. At USD, any given student feels like he or she is "somebody," rather than feeling like just another student at a large university.
In addition to my studies, I am involved in the Tiospaye Student Council which is the Native American student organization on campus. Because of my involvement with this group, I was able to serve in leadership positions, meet other Native students and network with university administration.
I also got to take part in Undergraduate Research. This opportunity played an integral part in my experience at USD. During my junior and senior year, a graduate student mentored me and showed me what research was all about. With after graduation plans to attend medical school, I have been able to conduct some chemistry research with potential medical applications.
Prof. Ranjit Koodali has inspired me the most. He has been my research mentor for the last two years. During this time, he has been recognized in popular media sources for his research work and scientific contributions. He challenges his students to go the extra mile, and has always had an open door policy if students need help. Prof. Koodali cares about his students' academics, but he is also interested in the person inside the student. We can talk about anything - school, life, family, friends and sports. He genuinely enjoys getting to know his students.