PHutures – 100 Alumni Voices »

Andrew Kesner

“If you get jazzed up about finally being able to look at your data after running an experiment for a couple of weeks and that thrill doesn’t ever fade away, then you’re probably doing something right. You’re in the right place for yourself.”

Krieger School of Arts & Sciences

Cellular, Molecular, Developmental Biology & Biophysics, PhD 2018

Chief, Unit on Motivation and Arousal at Laboratory for Integrative Neuroscience at National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Andrew‘s Podcast Episode

In this episode, we discuss Andrew’s experience pursuing a PhD in behavioral neuroscience through a Graduate Partnership Program with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Johns Hopkins University, how he centers human impact in his preclinical research on substance abuse disorders and sleep, and his advice for gaining mentorship experience during the PhD program to help develop leadership and people management skills.

Learn More About Andrew‘s Story

Near the end of most Ph.D. programs, your thesis committee will grant you ‘permission to write’, signaling winding down research activities and setting a date, usually six months later, for your thesis defense. In May 2018, my ‘6-Month Meeting’ went smoothly and my 28-week pregnant wife and I celebrated. That same evening my wife woke up having contractions and after a whirlwind of a night, my first daughter was born healthy, but very premature. Thankfully, my thesis advisor and committee were caring and empathetic during this difficult time, traits I try to emulate now as a PI. After 3 months of thesis writing in the NICU, and then several more at home, here we are pictured putting the final touches on my dissertation together! Our time in the NICU reopened my eyes to the wonders of biomedical research, as I saw its impact keeping my tiny preemie baby healthy and growing.

These old medical textbooks, microscope, and name placard belonged to my paternal grandfather, a dentist who practiced in New York City during the 1950-70s. He died tragically when my father was a teenager, so we never met, but he and I share the same first initial and surname. My father found the placard and saved it for me when he learned I was working towards my doctorate degree. I remember seeing the books and microscope at my grandmother’s house growing up (I may have even scribbled in some…) and now I keep them in my office. They remind me of my upbringing and heritage. I am thankful to have this family history that fostered my passion for science.