The Art and Science of Research

Published: Aug 12, 2002

Outstanding Results by Any Measure

Kevin Griffith, who received a M.S. in applied molecular biology and a Ph.D. in molecular and cell biology from UMBC, is on his way to a post-doctoral fellowship at MIT.
Kevin Griffith, who received a M.S. in applied molecular biology and a Ph.D. in molecular and cell biology from UMBC, is on his way to a post-doctoral fellowship at MIT.

“The Art and Science of Research”
 
When Kevin Griffith came to UMBC for a master’s in 1996, he didn’t expect to stay for another six years. But after completing the one-year program in Applied Molecular Biology (AMB), which prepares students for high-level technical positions in the biotechnology industry, Griffith was hooked on research and entered UMBC’s Molecular and Cell Biology doctoral program. (The MOCB Ph.D. program was designed in part with such students in mind, since the AMB program fulfills many of the course requirements.)
“Research is challenging,” says Griffith, “yet very rewarding.” In addition to the challenge, Griffith also likes the freedom it offers, both in the work environment (“it’s not like work really, it’s more like an exciting game”) and in the intellectual pursuit (“understanding the complexities of ‘mother nature’ is intriguing to me…one never really knows which direction the research will turn next”).
In Griffith’s case, it has led him to MIT, where he will be working as a post-doctoral fellow in the lab of Dr. Alan Grossman, whom he first met at a national meeting where Griffith presented a paper on his recent research. His advice for other Ph.D. students seeking post-doctoral positions in prestigious universities?  “Work hard; start your search for a post-doc early; share the information you’ve learned through publications; and never give up!”
Griffith, a first author on four papers, the most of any student in Dr. Rick Wolf’s lab at UMBC, initially focused his research on a genetic system that bacteria use to defend themselves against toxic forms of oxygen, some of which are formed during normal metabolic processes. But, as happens sometimes in science, work aimed at solving one problem can lead to unexpected discoveries of far greater impact and importance.  Such was the case with Griffith as his studies of SoxS, the mediator of the defense response against superoxide, led to the discovery of a new mechanism of transcription activation.  This was quite surprising because mechanisms of transcription activation in bacteria have been studied for more than thirty years. Thus, Griffith’s work has contributed not only to understanding the cell’s defense against toxic forms of oxygen, but also to the broader field of basic mechanisms of gene regulation. Moreover, extensions of his work may lead to the design of new forms of antibiotics.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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