BW Senior Co-Authors Groundbreaking Spinal Cord Research for International Journal

December 1, 2014

"Nature" lists Baldwin Wallace undergraduate neuroscience and chemistry major, Benjamin Brown '15, among the heavyweight Case Western Reserve-led scientists who have developed a new chemical compound showing "extraordinary promise in restoring function lost to spinal cord injury."

The 21-year-old Brown is listed as an author on the study, which appears in the December 3 edition of Nature. It details remarkable new research on a peptide that helped to heal paralyzed muscles in lab animals.

Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine Professor of Neurosciences Jerry Silver, PhD, the senior author on the study, led an international team of scientists in the groundbreaking research.

Top Tier Publishing, Rewarding Scientific Investigation

Recognition in a preeminent journal like Nature represents a publishing pinnacle. “It doesn’t get any bigger than that for a scientist,” said James McCargar, Associate Dean of BW’s School of Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Computing.

"To me, publishing in a top tier scientific journal is a great validation that the effort I have been putting into becoming a successful researcher so far in my academic career is paying off,” said Brown, of Columbia Station. "It's also incredibly rewarding to contribute to such an important scientific investigation."

"It is great not only to see experiments work, but to contribute to a comprehensive, impactful project," said Brown, who brings experience with and interest in protein chemistry to the effort. "It also demonstrates that a smaller school like Baldwin Wallace can and does train students to do exceptionally well in the sciences."

Opportunity Mixed with Talent and Tenacity

Brown's achievement is indeed another endorsement for the strength of BW’s interdisciplinary science programs, including The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) 2012 “International Undergraduate Program-of-the-Year.” Through a distinctive faculty and peer mentoring model, BW undergraduates are able to begin developing top-flight research skills right out of the gate. But credit the hard work of the talented graduate of Olmsted Falls High School for making the most of the opportunities.

"I was in a lab in late September of my freshman year at BW,” the Honors Program student recalled. By the time Brown traveled with fellow BW students on a Nu Rho Psi and Honors-funded trip to the Society for Neuroscience conference in San Diego in the fall of his Junior year, he already had impressive research to present, and the confidence to approach Case’s Jerry Silver.

"I invited him to see our research presentation. He came toward the end of BW's poster session and approved of our research. Later that same day I found him again, struck up a conversation, and asked if he ever took undergraduates into his lab." Silver invited him to reconnect back in Cleveland and Brown began working in the Silver lab in May. He's grateful to have been welcomed by a team of talented, optimistic and collegial scientists.

"The experience has been great. The project spanned multiple labs at multiple universities, but my primary interactions were with the Silver Lab group at Case. They were all more than happy to teach me and work with me."

"Up and Coming Researcher" Looks to Blend Lab Work with Patient Care

After graduation, Brown plans to attend a dual MD/PhD program to prepare for a career that blends both laboratory research and patient care. He already has been accepted to two medical schools.

In the meantime, Brown, who helps make other BW students aware of research opportunities in his role as president of BW’s Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Society and BW's Nu Rho Psi chapter, continues to work in Silver’s lab. “There are a number of important questions that remain to be addressed…and I am really enjoying working with this research team to address those questions.”

Jacqueline K. Morris, director of BW's Neuroscience Program said Brown is one to watch. "Ben has a deep understanding of the interdisciplinary nature of the Neuroscience field. In my mind, he is an up and coming researcher who will make pivotal changes in how medicine and science are conducted in the future."

"Go Where the Faculty is Invested in You"

Brown's advice for other aspiring scientists who have high expectations for their own futures? "Go to a school where the faculty is invested in you. I would not have had the opportunities I have had if it weren’t for those close connections at BW."