Commencement speaker is one of a kind
Caleb Bastian isn't the typical dental student. Bastian, who will represent his fellow University of Louisville graduates as the 2010 student commencement speaker, not only graduates with a dental medicine degree, but also with master's degrees in business administration, oral biology and anatomical science and neurobiology.
"I have never seen a student complete so many degrees at one time. The dental degree is totally demanding, and for someone to complete so many at once is amazing. This probably will never be replicated," said Allan Farman, dental professor and Bastian’s mentor for his thesis in anatomical sciences and neurobiology.
With an ultimate goal of researching cancer, trying to develop improved diagnostic technologies or even drugs to treat oral cancer, Bastian is not finished. He will begin work on a PhD in applied mathematics at Princeton University in the fall – and five years ahead of most people, he’s applied for a K08 grant from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.
The combination of mathematics with his knowledge of biology will allow him to do cutting-edge research using mathematics to study biology at a detailed level.
His time at UofL, Bastian said, prepared him well for further studies.
“This has been a very good experience. … The research opportunities are very substantial with a huge potential for students to tap into them. … I've had a really strong exposure to biology and clinical treatment with patients, and a lot of training in mathematics and statistics. I'm just extending this in my PhD studies.”
Doctoral studies and a research career aren’t the courses he thought he would be pursuing, however. When he first entered dental school, he said he expected to go into clinical practice.
It’s important to take advantage of unexpected opportunities, Bastian said, and that’s one of the things he’ll tell his fellow graduates.
He probably could give them pointers on juggling multiple studies and maintaining balance, as well.
“You have to be passionate about what you are studying and you have to be organized,” he said. “I am very scheduled and regimented. If I weren't organized, none of this would have worked.”
Don’t think, however, that Bastian spent every minute in scholarly pursuit.
“My overall focus as a general philosophy is to stay engaged in a diverse collection of experiences,” he said, noting that he unwinds by running and being physically active and by playing both the piano and oboe.