Aspects of a Learner | Jesse Britz
Hailing from Divernon, Illinois, Jesse Britz is a pharmacology and neuroscience graduate student in the Department of Pharmacology. He has been the student representative to the Graduate Program Committee and chief coordinator of “Brain Awareness Week,” the main community volunteering activity of the graduate students. This December, he will earn his PhD.
Tell us about your family.
My dad was a bridge painter and auctioneer, among a million other things. My mom was a saint in raising two kids and taking care of the house and 7 acres, always making home feel like the world’s best place. My sister grew up as my best friend and worst enemy, but luckily we ditched the worst enemy part later in life.
What did you want to be as a child?
My dream job changed a few times, but some of the earliest I can remember are astronaut and archeologist.
What’s the oddest or your most favorite job you had as a teen?
I worked on a hog farm for a summer, not a career I’d recommend pursuing.
Did you have any weird or interesting talents as a child?
I tried calling in the Guinness Book of World Records people to count consecutive pogo stick jumps once. I thought I was good, but nobody ever showed up.
Tell us about your research interests.
When I entered college, I cited an interest in natural compounds used in medicine. Admittedly, I was green to the field at that time. My biochemistry professor at UIS graduated from the SIU pharmacology program, and through taking that coursework, combined with natural interest, I thought SIU School of Medicine to be a good next step forward. My research progress involved simulating chronic jetlag in a few Alzheimer’s disease mouse models in order to help in elucidating aspects of the relationship between the circadian system and Alzheimer’s pathological progression.
What do you love most about the program?
The program is small, which creates a fairly tight-knit group of students. Everyone is always willing to offer a hand at work, and grab drinks after.
What are your plans after earning your degree?
Currently applying for jobs, but a medical liaison position is attractive. The medical liaison position, particularly for pharmaceutical companies, involves understanding the science and surrounding literature around a product in the pipeline, as well as competitor products and communicating that with key opinion leaders, clinicians, etc. It provides a good way for me to transfer skills in reading and understanding science to an industry setting, however moving away from the benchside.
How does your field of study relate to chronic illness or an aging population?
The research I worked on at SIU Medicine couldn’t apply more to an aging population. The likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease increases drastically with age, and is a major burden on the patients’ families as well as socioeconomically. Circadian dysfunction is a well-known symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. However, our research and others like it, suggests that chronic circadian disruption through Alzheimer’s pathological progression can actually exacerbate the rate and severity, particularly of cognitive symptoms. Work schedules such as swing shifts or night shifts are prevalent, however, it is important to understand the multitude of health risks that they pose, particularly under chronic conditions.
What might we find you doing outside of school?
I stay very busy outside of school. In 2018 I started a business buying and selling vintage trading cards that has grown more than I ever would have anticipated. So I spend what seems like another full-time job running that.
What’s your greatest passion?
I am big into music, as well as my business. Nothing excites me as much as my yearly trip to Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado for a summer concert.
Do you have any pets?
Currently, just have a blind cat. Wouldn’t have her any other way.
What’s your motto or favorite quote?
"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” Robert Frost. I frequently brought that with me into life’s toughest decisions.
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