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David Strickland '13

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Since the 9th grade, David Strickland ’13 has known what he would study in college and what he would do as a career one day – study biology and become a professor. And he hasn’t once thought about changing his mind – well, not too much anyway.

“My high school biology teacher inspired me to see all the life that surrounds us and that is us. He also developed my interest in teaching,” he says. “When I came to Clarkson, the biology program completed those ideals perfectly for me.”

One thing that has changed? His interest in genetics, a subset of the biology program, which he stumbled upon during his freshman year.

He explains, “The scheduling in the biology program is flexible enough that I can take whatever biology and chemistry classes interest me the most. The field of genetics became my primary interest when I took a genetics course early in my college career.”

David, a PennYan, N.Y. native, recently began studying genetics in the lab with Prof. Craig Woodworth on a project that he will work on until graduation. He’s looking at the E6 and E7 genes of human papillomavirus (HPV) and investigating how alternative splicing of these genes produces different proteins that may be found in varied concentrations throughout the ectocervix in women.  

During his sophomore year, David also worked with Woodworth on a similar research project funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) investigating defensins, small proteins that fight off bacteria and viruses like HPV. “I remember meeting Prof. Woodworth freshman year and immediately thinking, ‘I want to work for this guy!’ So I asked for a position after taking genetics with him and I’ve been living in the lab ever since.”

And while David might live in the lab, he also finds time to enjoy extracurricular activities at Clarkson, such as the Tri Beta Honor Society, a club for students in biology that helps them meet faculty, connect with their peers, and discuss career, internship and research opportunities. He’s also part of Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts – Academic Linkage, otherwise known as RASC-AL, a SPEED (Student Projects for Engineering Experience & Design) team affiliated with NASA. 

“Our team develops a theoretical space mission each year then travels to Florida to compete at the national level with other universities. In the past we’ve developed a manned mission to Mars and this year we’re working on the construction of a moon base,” he says. “Being the only biology major on the team, I am working on the human aspect of a lunar settlement and asking questions like, ‘How are we going to keep those people alive?’”

After graduation, David plans on attending graduate school to earn a Ph.D. in a field related to genetics so that he can go on to become a university professor and focus on research and teaching. 

Overall, knowing his future major didn’t mean knowing which university was the right one, but David is sure he made the right choice. “Clarkson is a perfect fit for me,” he says. “I love walking down a hall and overhearing students discussing math problems or listening to my roommates argue over thermodynamics. The University fosters a learning environment and provides opportunities for underclassmen that I have yet to see matched at another school.”
david strickland

David Strickland '13