Student Spotlight December 2023
Collin Wells is a 4th year PhD student in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics anticipated to graduate in May of 2025.
Q: Describe your educational background.
A: I went to Eastern High School in Louisville and graduated in 2016. Then I went to Centre College in Danville, Kentucky and received my B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in 2020. At Centre, I took part in some research opportunities and fell in love with working at the bench doing science.
Q: What brought you to the University of Louisville?
A: To be quite honest, Louisville is home and I wanted to further my education with my family close to me. That said, what’s truly kept me here is the folks and work being done at the Center of Cardiometabolic Science (CCS). Within the CCS, graduate students and trainees are exposed to additional training sessions outside of the lab and classroom via the bi-weekly “Academy” sessions, which host different workshops, career panels, and provide training in manuscript and grant review. Additionally, trainees take part in weekly affinity meetings, where mentors and their students gather to discuss projects and future directions. The combination of a collaborative and supportive work environment that is engaging and successful is why I chose to work within the CCS at the University of Louisville.
Q: What is your specific area of research?
A: My work focuses on understanding how metabolic changes in the heart affect cardiac health and remodeling. Specifically, I study the metabolic underpinnings of scar formation, or fibrosis, following acute injury to the heart, such as a myocardial infarction.
Q: How would you describe your area of study or specific research to your grandmother?
A: After a heart attack, the beating cells of your heart die and can’t regrow to repair lost tissue. Instead, neighbors of the beating cells in the heart called ‘fibroblasts’ create collagen to form scar tissue to prevent the heart from rupturing. Initially, this scar is good – without it, you would die! However, over time excess collagen is generated and the scar spreads to healthy regions of the heart, which stiffens the heart and decreases its function. I’m trying to figure out what is used to make that collagen, so eventually targeted drugs can be used to prevent excess collagen formation.
Q: What are your long-term goals or aspirations?
A: Following PhD training, I will pursue postdoctoral training to bolster my research career in cardiac physiology and metabolism. My long-term career goal to become a productive independent researcher at an R1 University.
Q: What accomplishment, academic or otherwise, are you most proud of?
A: Being awarded an NIH F31 fellowship award, which helps to fund my dissertation research.
Q: What has been your favorite part of the graduate school experience at UofL?
A: Being given the opportunity and support to travel for conferences. Being able to explore new places, new science, and share your own work is some of the coolest aspects of being a graduate student.
Awards, honors, publications:
NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA Predoctoral Fellowship
Asmus S, Wells C, Montalvo H. Beating heart cells: Using cultured cardiomyocytes to study cellular structure and contractility in laboratory exercises. Biochem Mol Biol Educ. 2023.
Abouleisa R, McNally L, Salama A, Hammad S, Ou Q, Wells C, Lorkiewicz P, Bolli R, Mohamed, Hill BG. Cell cycle induction in human cardiomyocytes is dependent on biosynthetic pathway activation. Redox Biology. 2021;46,102094
A talent you have always wanted: To be musically inclined and play multiple instruments.
Favorite book: The Book of the New Sun
Favorite quote: “If I had seen one miracle fail, I had witnessed another; and even a seemingly purposeless miracle is an inexhaustible source of hope, because it proves to us that since we do not understand everything, our defeats—so much more numerous than our few and empty victories—may be equally specious” – Gene Wolfe
Role Model: My parents!
Favorite thing to do or place to go in Louisville: Recently it’s been fly fishing at Floyds Fork and Otter Creek. Other than that, I enjoy spending time with family and friends, watching football, and live music.
If you weren’t in graduate school, what would you be doing now? Culinary School or fishing across the South Island of New Zealand.