Q&A: Senior Feature: Brittani Schnable

Sienna Coleman 

sicoleman@ursinus.edu 

Someday, senior Brittani Schnable will have her own re- search lab. At Ursinus, Schnable majored in biochemistry and molecular biology, and physics. She was also the president of Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority, a TA for the physics and astronomy department, and a campus safety dispatcher, in addition to being involved in the Mini-THON committee and Escape Velocity. During one of her extremely rare spare moments, “The Grizzly” sat down with Schnable to learn more about her time at Ursinus. This interview has been edited lightly for clarity. 

Why did you choose to major in biochemistry and molecular biology, and physics? 

I was always interested in biophysics. So I was originally a biology and physics double major, but then I realized I liked biochem more. I liked seeing the interactions of proteins and seeing things on the small molecular level instead of looking at an entire organism. And I just think physics is fun and I like math. 

What was your favorite class? 

I really liked structural biology. That was the course that when I took it, I thought, ‘I definitely want to switch to a biochem major.’ I thought, ‘I want to do something like this with my PhD – working with proteins and using computer programs for determining their structure and function. My favorite class in physics was advanced quantum mechanics. It was very difficult, but it was interesting to learn about and look at all the math related to it. 

Tell me about your research. 

I worked in Dr. Schwarz’ lab in the physics department. I started doing that research the fall of my sophomore year. It is a material science lab, so we are looking at glass and studying the optical properties of it. We are partnered with the University of Central Florida and Penn State. We are funded by Lockheed Martin. My other research is with Dr. Lobo in the biochem department. I worked in that lab starting fall of my junior year and that’s studying antibiotic resistance in E. faecium and E. faecalis bacteria. 

What did your sorority, Tri Sigma, mean to you? 

Tri Sigma is my home away from home. I was initially never going to go Greek. I was so opposed to it and then I went
to some of the rush events and realized it was just a bunch of girls where I felt comfortable. I thought that it seemed like a great support system. That’s what it turned out to be. I highly credit this sorority for the person that I am today because everyone always pushed me to be my absolute best and to always strive to achieve whatever I wanted to. 

You were involved in Escape Velocity at Ursinus. Have you always been a dancer? 

I have been dancing since I was three, so it has always been a huge part of my life. I knew I wouldn’t have the time to major or minor in dance because of my double major, but it was just a place where I could essentially just hang with friends, dance, put together a show, and have fun.

What is your favorite memory from Ursinus? 

One of my favorite things was that I got to go to Boston present at one of the biggest research conferences for material science research. That was just awesome to me because I felt like I wouldn’t get that opportunity if I was at a bigger school because I wouldn’t be able to join a research lab as early as I did. Another thing is just that the friends I had here are definitely friends for life, lifelong bonds. 

What are your future plans? 

I will be going to grad school this fall. I will be going to the University of Pittsburgh and getting my PhD in molecular biophysics and structural biology. I want to be a full time researcher. I am considering possibly going into academia, but I do know that I want to have my own research lab one day. I knew after I took a structural biology course my sophomore year. I really liked the concept of how the structure of a protein can determine its function. Then, during the summer of 2018, I did structural biology research at the University of Oklahoma. That was cool, being able to see how important the structure is and how slight mutations can change an entire function. 

How has Ursinus changed you? 

Ursinus gave me a lot more independence than what I was expecting. You are used to being at home, having your parents
tell you what to do all the time. Coming here was the first time that I was really away from my family. I don’t live far from here, but I don’t feel obligated to go home. I am my own independent person. I got to learn a lot about myself and I really grew as a person in four short years here.