Dr. Kevin Bowling works in Dr. Rick Myers’ lab. He grew up in North Alabama, but never dreamed he’d have the opportunity to pursue a biotech career so close to home.
Q: How and when did you wind up at HudsonAlpha?
I grew up in Moulton, Alabama, which is about 45 miles west of Huntsville. I completed a Ph.D. in molecular biology and genetics at the University of Alabama in December 2008. (Bowling also earned his undergraduate and master’s degrees at Alabama.)
During my search for a postdoctoral position, a member of my graduate committee informed me that Rick Myers was moving his lab from Stanford to HudsonAlpha in order to serve as director of HudsonAlpha Institute. Throughout graduate school, I thought I would have to move away from Alabama for a postdoctoral position. I never imagined that the opportunity would exist for me in Huntsville. Because I knew that I wanted to be trained in human genetics, and because Rick was moving his lab to Huntsville, I knew that HudsonAlpha would be a great fit for me.
Not only has it been great working in Rick’s lab at HudsonAlpha, but the move to Huntsville has also allowed me to stay close to my family as my parents, my brother and sister, and three nephews and a niece still live in Moulton. Working at HudsonAlpha has afforded me the unique opportunity to conduct high level scientific research while at the same time allowing me to live nearby family and close friends.
Q: What is your research area and what is your role in the effort?
My research area focuses on disorders of the central nervous system. More specifically, I am searching for molecular defects or markers that associate with psychiatric disorders (major depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia) and Parkinson’s disease in hopes of identifying genes or gene pathways that contribute to disease pathology. Although many members of the Myers Lab work closely with me in studying these neurological disorders, it is my job to oversee and manage the experiments and computer analysis associated with these projects.
Q: Why is this research important?
The research projects that I am carrying out are important to me not only because I have a strong interest in understanding neurological disease, but because of those who continue to suffer from these debilitating disorders. Six percent of people in the general population suffer from severe mental illness while one percent of all individuals over age 60 present with symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Moreover, the treatments that currently exist for these neurological disorders are efficacious in only a small percentage of those affected. With this in mind, it is crucial that new treatments be introduced and in order for this to happen, a much better understanding of these neurological pathologies is required. It is my hope that the studies that I am carrying out will aid the neuro-scientific community in understanding the cause or causes of psychiatric disorders and Parkinson’s disease in order to then improve diagnostics, treatments and quality of life.
Q: What sparked your passion for science?
I have always been interested in science. In high school I had a biology teacher, Cinda Preuit, who was particularly good at demonstrating that science is fun. However, I never really considered science as a career option until after finishing my undergraduate degree.
For a short period following graduation, I worked as a research assistant under Dr. Janis O’Donnell at the University of Alabama. Working in Janis’ lab was my first taste of molecular biology and genetics in a research lab setting. This experience really opened my eyes to the opportunities available to those with advanced degrees in science and piqued my interest in biological phenomenon. After only a few months of working with Janis O’Donnell as a research assistant, I applied to graduate school and began working in her lab as a doctoral student.
Q: What do you like best about working at HudsonAlpha?
The best thing about working at HudsonAlpha is the camaraderie that I share with colleagues in the Myers Lab. Not only are we colleagues, we are also close friends. Everyone has a very positive attitude and there is a great sense of team unity, which is essential for the type of experiments that we conduct on a daily basis. Dr. Myers has put together a great team of scientists and technicians and I consider myself very lucky to be a part of this group of very talented people.
Q: Tell us something about you most people would be surprised to know.
There are actually two things that people would be surprised to know about me: 1) From the time that I was in middle school, it was my dream to become a broadcast meteorologist (I wanted to be the weatherman!). Meteorology was my first major as an undergraduate student. 2) I am a reality TV junkie; I love the drama!