Molecular Biologist

submitted 2009

Jeremy Wideman is an experimenter in more ways than one.

He’s a full time molecular biologist right now, working towards a PhD at the University of Alberta. Jeremy hasn’t always been so focused on a single subject, though. While a student at Augustana for instance, he tried his hand at politics, serving two terms as Vice-President of the Augustana Students' Association. He also got involved with campus media, co-editing Augustana’s campus newspaper, The Dag. He even spent a few years playing in a band. The band’s name – the Vinyl Experiment – provides fitting testament to Jeremy’s resolute focus on the novel.

His current experiments focus on the building blocks of life itself. His research involves isolating individual mitochondria and looking at how specific proteins are able to traverse their outer membrane. Using a sophisticated technique called polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, or PAGE for short, he is able to study specific radio-tagged mitochondria in their natural state and gain a new perspective on processes taking place at the sub-cellular level.

Things are going well; he is about to publish an article along with collaborators in Canada and Germany. He also recently won the Queen Elizabeth II graduate scholarship, a prestigious prize awarded by the Alberta government.

Despite such achievements however, Jeremy emphasizes that it’s not the research results that drives him. “With research and lab work you have to be okay with failure; it’s try and try again before achieving success. Honestly, I have known the pain of failure more in the three years I’ve been studying this than in the previous 23 years combined.

“Now teaching, on the other hand... teaching is instantaneous gratification! It’s supposed to be a hassle and get in the way of research, but for me it’s a break from research.”

His number one lesson to his students? To experiment, of course. “I love to teach what I'm not supposed to. I try to teach premed students why they should get an undergraduate degree rather than going straight into med school, and telling science students to take arts courses so they get a chance to learn a few things applicable to life outside the lab.”

His own choices exemplify such an approach. “While at Augustana I took a course on the philosophy of biology as part of my major, and I also took a philosophy minor. I’ve been interested in those subjects ever since. Last year, I even presented a paper to the Canadian Society for History and Philosophy of Science.”

Jeremy points to such experiences at Augustana as the source of both his multidisciplinary outlook and his desire to teach. “I really appreciated the closeness and community that Augustana has across disciplines; the idea of that type of community remains very dear to me. Once I graduate, I want to teach at a small institution like Augustana, some place that has the same close sense of community.”

It’s clear that for Jeremy, successful experiments can happen just about anywhere, whether in the lab, the classroom, or the community.

See his published paper: Roles of the Mdm10, Tom7, Mdm12, and Mmm1 Proteins in the Assembly of Mitochondrial Outer Membrane Proteins in Neurospora crassa