Student Spotlight

Conner Iknokwayyo Sandefur
University of Michigan
Schnell Lab


Q: What initially attracted you to biophysics?

For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed being outdoors exploring and investigating my  environment. I find patterns in our natural world, such as in migrating animal behavior and the structure of a dragon fly wing, fascinating.

Q: What specific areas are you studying?

My current field is mathematical biology with a focus on protein misfolding and aggregation and bistability.

Q: What is your current research project?

Identifying the reaction mechanisms underlying threshold phenomena in protein misfolding diseases.

Q: What do you hope to do after graduation?

I hope to do a postdoc in the (very general) area of addressing dynamical behaviors in human disease and/or human-environment interactions.

Q: If you could give one piece of advice to someone just starting their undergraduate science career, what would it be?

My one piece of advice would be to get involved inside and outside of the classroom. Make course work a priority (and make sure to attend office hours!) and also take advantage of all the opportunities at your school and in the local area. Join academic and social clubs, attend seminars, and volunteer or work in a research laboratory.

Q: Why did you join the Biophysical Society?

My advisor recommended it as a wonderful opportunity to meet a network of passionate scientists who are also interested in understanding the principles underlying the patterns we see around us.

Q: What (or who) inspires you scientifically?

I am inspired to improving the human condition and our environment by understanding how the natural world and our lives interact and change from the time of our ancestors to present day, and using this understanding to predict how our world might be in the future.

Santiago Schnell, Sandefur’s PI, says:

"Conner is both enthusiastic and motivated. He is also resourceful, and knows when and where to seek assistance. I have seen how Conner sets  high standards, and works extremely hard and successfully to achieve them. In addition, he is very committed in increasing the participation of the Native American community in science. Conner has the innate talent and personal qualities needed to become a leader in both biophysics and the Native American community. It is indeed a pleasure to work with him.”

January 2012 Table of Contents