Lindsey Brier, a junior mathematical biology major and chemistry minor, is one of 271 undergraduates nationwide named a Barry M. Goldwater Scholar.
The Goldwater Scholarship Program fosters and encourages outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences, and engineering. Considered the premier undergraduate award for these fields, more than 1,100 students were nominated by their universities this year. Scholars receive up to $7,500.
Though Brier started out as a math major at the University of Houston, she soon found mathematical biology would give her a better background for a newfound interest – biology and chemistry research.
“I’m interested in drug design and how drugs interact with physiological pathways,” said Brier, who plans to pursue a Ph.D. in either medicinal chemistry or pharmacology. “So, it was important to me to understand biological systems.”
Brier, who is also interested in clinical applications, says her main reason for doing research in this field is to improve available health care. “I’ve considered entering an M.D./Ph.D. program, but my biggest interest is in doing medical research.”
Undergraduate research has played a significant role in her education. Having worked on research projects at UH and University of California, San Francisco, Brier will travel to University of Pennsylvania this summer.
This semester, Brier is doing research in the lab of James Briggs, associate professor and interim chair of the Department of Biology and Biochemistry. She is focusing on the protein, cholera toxin. “We are writing programs that allow us to look at proteins and determine potential interaction points for drugs,” said Brier, who is participating through the Provost’s Undergraduate Research Scholarship program.
Her research experience at UCSF involved using a computer program to look at specific membrane transporters that are resistant to chemotherapy. “The transporters are pushing out the drugs that doctors are trying to get in,” she said. “We used the program to test and identify drugs that have more of an affinity for the transporter, and therefore, uncovered greater potential for future drug development.”
In Brier’s case, undergraduate research broadened her well-rounded science background by exposing her to computer science. It also gave her real-life applications of topics taught in class. “Research really makes you remember the information, learn it and know it because you have to be able to defend your work and choose future directions for the research. If you don’t understand the concept, you can’t possibly do any of that,” she said.
At UH, Brier facilitates a small, organic chemistry workshop for the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics’ Scholar Enrichment Program. Students in the small classes do practice problems and review concepts; the setting encourages discussion and more interaction.
“Many students are afraid of organic chemistry. The workshops help reinforce the concepts covered in the lecture course,” said Brier, who has co-led a workshop for two semesters. “I’ve gotten a deeper understanding of organic chemistry by learning how to explain it to others.”
Brier is a native of Allen, Texas, and attended Allen High School. At UH, she is a Houston-Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Scholar and a member of The Honors College.