HANDS-ON BENCH SCIENCE
The lab and students – better than a desk job
“When I was a graduate student at Purdue, when you had to complete your mandatory shifts as a TA (Teaching Assistant) and RA (Research Assistant), the other grad students always complained. They just wanted to get the teaching over with so they could get back to their research. I thought teaching was the fun part,” says OUM faculty member Christiaan Meadows, PhD.
He currently teaches Biochemistry within the pre-clinical curriculum and has taken on his first advisee as a Research Advisor. He also teaches Biochemistry, Biology, Chemistry, and Advanced Mathematics as a tutor for student athletes at his grad school alma mater Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana (US).
Make no mistake, he loves the lab
“For years, friends and colleagues have said ‘Why are you still in the lab? Someone with your experience should be at a higher level.’ But I like the hands-on work and a better title typically means a desk job,” says Dr. Meadows.
Together with his teaching roles, he is a Biochemist for the Indiana Crop Improvement Association (ICIA). As Indiana is a prominent US farming region, ICIA is a not-for-profit agricultural testing agency which assures the quality/purity of seeds used to produce the area’s crops.
Through determining hybrid protein patterns or conducting RT-PCR analysis (Real-Time Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction), Dr. Meadows’ lab identifies the presence or absence of genetic modification (GM). The PCR analysis on DNA extracted from seeds assures farmers that products created from their crops can be identified as non-GMO, a popular and emerging field within the food industry.
Despite childhood thoughts of being a truck driver or rock-and-roll musician, Dr. Meadows admits that he had a pretty good idea that he would end up working in some sort of science. When it was time for college and he was looking at Virginia Tech University (nationally known for its tech and science programs), the school was paying in-state tuition if you studied Biochemistry – and Dr. Meadows lived in neighboring West Virginia.
“I may not have known at the time exactly what Biochemistry was, but I knew I liked the molecules part of Biology and I liked some Chemistry, as long as it wasn’t too abstract,” he said of his decision to be a biochemist.
A family in healthcare
Albeit science, Biochemistry wasn’t exactly the family business. His mother was a pediatric nurse, one brother is an MD on the faculty at Marshall University School of Medicine, his sister is a pediatrician in New Orleans (and a dear friend from residency of Dr. Paula Diamante, OUM Director of Faculty Affairs), one brother is a medical coder, and an aunt is a healthcare administrator.
“I admit that I briefly flirted with the idea of going to medical school and becoming a doctor,” says Dr. Meadows. “I remember my mother saying to me ‘You’re smart enough, but you’re a worrier. Ask yourself if you could handle the worry or would you always be on pins-and-needles waiting for all of your patients to be well?’” He decided that she probably had a good point.
On OUM’s faculty for nearly five years, he says he has enjoyed watching not only his students excel, but the University’s programming.
“I like to attend both Journal Club and Research Club as often as I can. I have watched the quality skyrocket of presentations being made by students and the questions they ask of each other,” says Dr. Meadows. With a note of levity in his voice, he also has a compliment for faculty colleagues.
“When I ‘grow up,’ I want to be as smart as Dr. Brown, Dr. Ghazi, and Dr. Muhsin,”* he says. “Questions they ask during Research Club roll off their tongues so quickly. They always impress me.”
“Teaching the kids”
Dr. Meadows is also impressed by his students. While OUM’s non-traditional medical students are known for their juggling of home, school, and work, Dr. Meadows says his juggle is a bit different.
“As a bachelor, my juggle is the jobs,” he says, of the bench work at ICIA, students at Purdue, and in the past, he taught Advanced Placement Biology at his former high school. In addition, he teaches Sunday school at his church, as well as a Monday night edition, and Biochemistry at OUM four nights each week. He gets teased about his reference to “teaching the kids.”
“It’s my term whether I’m talking about my college, high school, or OUM students,” he says of the term of endearment, acknowledging that his medical students are anything but kids.
“The questions they ask in class are always very relevant to the topic and they make great contributions sharing anecdotes from their work experience,” says Dr. Meadows. “As a biochemist, I think in terms of molecules, but many of our students already think in terms of a patient they may have cared for.”
He says if they lack in anything, it is familiarity with basic sciences. “I try to help them understand that memorizing the structure of molecules isn’t what’s necessary, but they need to retain facts and adjust their way of thinking to apply knowledge to real-world situations.” And he says that they’re making it happen.