Chelsea Barrett, Class of 2020

Chelsea Barrett, second year PhD student and President of the newly created Biomedical Graduate Student Organization, was always interested in science. Growing up in the small town of Coloma, Michigan, she participated in the Berrien County Math and Science Center, where she spent half her school day studying advanced math, science, and computer courses. In 10th grade, Barrett came upon her first obstacle – chemistry. “[I] did terrible (by my standards). It was the first C I ever got on a test, and I really didn’t like my instructor, but I loved the labs! After that year, I decided that whatever I was going to do when I grow up was going to somehow involve Chemistry,” she recounted of her experience.

After graduating with a B.S. in Chemistry from Gannon University, Barrett decided to pursue her doctorate at UK because of all the chemistry-related research offered in the College of Medicine. However, the university’s collaborative spirit also weighed on her decision. Barrett said, “I didn’t get the competitive vibe that comes in so many research-driven fields. Everyone seemed to want to make sure that you grew into the best scientist you could be!”

Barrett now works in the department of Molecular & Cellular Biochemistry with Dr. Rebecca Dutch, studying Paramyxoviruses and Pneumoviruses. “I am looking at the key mechanisms that underlie the infectivity of these viruses, specifically how these viruses fuse to host cells and some of the interactions that drive that fusion,” she said.

One of Barrett’s biggest achievements in her year and a half at the university is her part in the founding of the Biomedical Graduate Student Organization (BGSO). “I was honestly surprised there wasn’t one when I started to serve as a resource for students and a way to bring students from all departments together so several of us put our heads together and got an organization going,” she explained. The organization serves graduate students in the biomedical sciences in UK’s College of Medicine by fostering collaboration and developing programming to help expand students’ skills and knowledge base.

Outside of school, Barrett loves playing volleyball, her college sport. She is also an avid outdoorswoman and has made it her goal to finish the Bourbon Trail by the time she defends her thesis.

Barrett spent three years working as a chemist in industry before deciding to return to school for her doctorate, and she says that she could see herself eventually pursuing a career there or as a researcher. “I really enjoyed the business and management experience that industry offers so I would like to get back to that in some aspect. Hopefully I will find a career in industry or at a research institute!“