Meet Austin Shull
Austin Shull, an assistant professor of biology at Presbyterian College in South Carolina, will be one of three official tweeters for the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology's annual meeting, which will be held in conjunction with Experimental Biology in April in Philadelphia. ASBMB Today talked to him about his background, experience with science communication and expectations for the meeting. The interview has been edited for length, clarity and style.
Tell me a bit about your background and educational journey. How/why did you wind up where you are? In other words, what’s your story?
The unique blessing for me working at Presbyterian College is that this small liberal arts college is also the place where I received my undergraduate degree and where my passion for research first started. Because of the investment of fantastic undergraduate faculty mentors who taught me what it meant to do science at an early undergraduate career stage, I decided to pursue a Ph.D. at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University. There, I worked in the Georgia Cancer Center and grew in my expertise as a cancer biologist.
Years later, I never thought I would have the opportunity to come back to my undergraduate alma mater as a faculty member and to mentor fantastic undergraduate students in pursuing impactful research questions in cancer biology, much of which has been accomplished through funding and support from the South Carolina IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence program, which is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.
Tell me a bit about your studies/research. Brag on your lab!
My lab focuses on understanding the epigenetic patterns of cancer stem cell subpopulations in breast cancer cells and determining how these epigenetic patterns contribute to the metastatic nature of aggressive breast cancer cells. I have been able to implement large-scale genomic analysis, next-generation sequencing approaches and classical molecular cell biology techniques to address questions regarding breast cancer biology from multiple viewpoints.
Furthermore, these approaches have enabled me to actively teach and mentor my undergraduate students in using multiple experimental angles that help better illuminate the larger scientific investigation process. In fact, the most rewarding aspect of my lab, which includes published manuscripts, awarded grants and selected presentations, is experiencing the joy from my students who get to see the overarching scientific story of our lab’s work and know that they were significantly responsible for having that work come together!
What else are you passionate about? What do you do in your spare time, or what kind of service really revs you up?
I’m very passionate about my local community. Presbyterian College is in a relatively small town located outside of populated suburban regions. So, in my local community, I get to be a part of outreach and civic organizations that have positive impact. These include the local youth recreation league organization, a health care outreach board and a high school tutoring program. Of course, these are all pursued during the free time between the classroom, lab and chasing two wonderful toddlers with my lovely spouse.
Which types of sessions do you expect to attend or are you most excited about?
I’m incredibly excited about the undergraduate poster competition and, in general, the work that will be presented by undergraduate scientists at the ASBMB meeting. I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunities and support that the ASBMB provides for our undergraduate students, and I cannot wait to be amazed by the work accomplished by these students at such an early career stage.
I have also been able to connect with more scientists outside of my circle because of social media, and I can’t wait to connect with some of these virtual colleagues in person.
Anything else you’d like to share?
This will be my first time at this meeting, but I can’t wait for the opportunity to make new connections and build new relationships with individuals who also share a love for science. Having a built-in ice breaker over a shared curiosity for scientific questions makes it easy to make connections and find potential colleagues.
I can’t wait to attend an in-person meeting with so many great scientists from around the world and to know that none of them have to be treated as if they were strangers!
Enjoy reading ASBMB Today?
Become a member to receive the print edition monthly and the digital edition weekly.Learn more
Get the latest from ASBMB Today
Enter your email address, and we’ll send you a weekly email with recent articles, interviews and more.
These funding mechanisms have been underutilized. The ASBMB public affairs staff offers recommendations to change that.