“La meilleure facon de prédire l’avenir, c’est de le créer”
(The best way to predict the future is to create it)
How does a young man from Hershey, PA end up at UNH? By way of a study abroad year in France that gave him a taste for what the world has to offer. After dozens of applications, Ben Claxton landed at UNH for two main reasons. When he toured campus he met with a professor of Biochemistry, Molecular and Cellular Biology, his future major, and was able to see the chance for top undergraduate research opportunities; and second was the small campus amenities UNH offered.
Ben jumped right into campus and academic life. One niche he carved out for himself was in the lab doing research. Freshman year Ben sat in Dr. Charles Walker’s Bio 411 class where he learned about Dr. Walker’s research. After class Ben took the opportunity to talk to Dr. Walker because he found it fascinating. Dr. Walker invited Ben to check out the lab and by his second semester on campus Ben began to work alongside his academic mentor.
Molecular biology of cancers is the subject of the research Ben has spent the last three years working on. Ben is culturing patient-derived cancer cells, treating them with potentially therapeutic genotoxic (DNA damaging) and non-genotoxic reagents and evaluating the results. His research is made even more special by a family connection. Ben’s father is a hematologist/oncologist who has generously offered his patient-derived cells to be used for this research. Ben’s research earned him a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) grant from the Hamel Center for Undergraduate Research, and will continue to be part of Ben’s senior thesis research.
Ben’s academic path has been influenced by his family. His parents have always been involved in his education, taking what he calls the “perfect role.” They reminded him when he didn’t reach his own standards by simply stating “B’s were not Ben’s best.” This reinforced his internal drive and desire to succeed. Ben is someone who has relied on perseverance to help him succeed. Ben stated he has never been the smartest in his class; he gets good grades because he works hard. He studies a lot, manages his time well and never gives up.
Ben is a self-proclaimed science nerd, but that hasn’t led him to spend all his time on campus in the lab. Ben is confident, charismatic, intelligent and giving; characteristics that have led him to his involvement in Medical Brigades of NH, a division of Global Brigades, the largest student led healthcare organization in the world. Medical Brigades brings students, health care professionals and supplies together creating pop up clinics and offering basic medical care and training to communities for one week in third world countries. The organization sends brigades to the same communities roughly every six months to ensure continuous care and works to enable communities to become self-sufficient over time.
Ben became involved with Medical Brigades his freshman year. He traveled to Honduras in January of 2012 on his first brigade as the Executive of Medicine. In this role, Ben was in charge of collecting and ordering the equivalent of $30,000 of medicine which would travel with the group. For his second brigade, Ben served as the Co-President, selecting, organizing and managing a group of 35 students and 10 health care professionals who would participate. A role he continues to hold as he prepares for his third brigade next January. Ben hopes to expand the program in the coming year by getting more students involved, especially those outside of science majors, and fundraising for a second 2014 brigade in May to Ghana.
This past year, Ben became an attendant with McGregor EMS. He says he loves the rush of fast paced medicine and is gaining experience for his future career. He also adds, “Getting to drive the big truck with lights and sirens is fun too!” On top of all of that, Ben has been a Resident Assistant (RA). Being an RA has helped him gain self-confidence and enabled him to become a leader. He has also dedicated time in his short three years at UNH to Chemistry Tutoring, Relay for Life and the American Society of Microbiology.
Ben’s advice to current students, “Take advantage of the opportunities UNH has to offer. There is a club for everyone…leadership opportunities are everywhere, don’t ever think something is restricted to a junior or senior…you can be the president of a club your sophomore year.”
Ben asked himself how he would feel fulfilled in life. He knew he needed a career that would enable him to give back, and continuously challenge himself. He plans to follow in his father’s footsteps by going to medical school. He has been influenced by the research he has been conducting and is thinking strongly about oncology as an area of interest.
With one year left on campus, there is no doubt Ben will continue to make a mark. When asked what his plans are for his senior year Ben indicated he plans to do the same activities, but make it even better!