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Biochem Grad Takes Passion for Teaching, Research to Ph.D. Program

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Biochemistry Major Travis Whyte ’14

As he began work in early September on a doctorate in physics at Baylor University, 23-year-old Travis Whyte couldn’t say enough about how important the Loyola Marymount University experience was in helping define his current path.

Whyte credits his professors with revealing to him how rewarding teaching can be. In particular, it was their knowledge, accessibility and sincere interest in helping him grow as a student and as a person. As a result, he’s also headed towards a career in academics. Four professors stand out: David Berube, Ph.D. (physics); David Moffet, Ph.D. (chemistry); Emily Jarvis, Ph.D. (chemistry); and Jeremy McCallum, Ph.D. (chemistry).

Their passion for teaching sparked his, and he was able to experience teaching firsthand by tutoring and serving as a teaching assistant.

“When someone’s struggling with a difficult concept, you can see it in their face when they finally get it,” Whyte says. “I like that – it’s a great feeling.”

His professors also led Whyte to appreciate the rewards of research. With Moffet, Whyte looked for fruit extracts that might stop a protein structure from forming that’s believed responsible for Type II diabetes. They published their results in the Journal of Functional Foods this year.

On a completely theoretical research project, Whyte worked with Jarvis to examine the electronic structure of a metal oxide nanopowder. They worked in conjunction with an experimental group in Russia, and their results were published in Surface Science.

“I never thought I would be part of an international collaboration for research,” Whyte says. “Then that opportunity presented itself, which was just absolutely fantastic.”

Whyte graduated from LMU in December 2014, with a major in biochemistry and a minor in physics. The flexibility to tailor his coursework more towards physics in his junior and senior years at LMU helped prepare him for his graduate program at Baylor, where he’s considering focusing on theoretical surface physics or quantum gravity.

Whyte also credits LMU with instilling in him a strong work ethic, which he’s putting into action at Baylor: “I’ve only been in grad school for three weeks, and I’m already working as hard as I can.”

“LMU was everything I could have asked for in a college experience.”