Loyola University Chicago

Department of Physics

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Get to know a biophysics major

Get to know a biophysics major

Ryan Bonate ('21) is a senior in the Biophysics program. He started at Loyola in the Fall of 2017 after attending high school in Libertyville, IL. Ryan was one of three recipients of the 2020 Fr. Gerst Memorial Award that is awarded by the Physics Department to outstanding juniors. He is preparing for a career in the medical sciences after graduation in the Spring.   

What degrees are your working toward?  Initially I was a biology, honors track, pre-med student. After realizing that I needed more problem-solving and less memorization, I changed to the Physics Department in the Spring of 2018. That is when I picked up biophysics, which has blown me away with how approachable and fascinating the material is. I also later that semester added mathematics as a second major. Right now I am also a bioethics minor, which for any pre-med physics people I cannot recommend highly enough

What research have you done and in what lab?  My freshman project was with Dr. Klinger looking at the development of ancient warfare and using non-destructive techniques to analyze fighting in the Hellenistic period. I worked at Rosalind Franklin University during my first summer at Loyola doing work on Parkinson’s treatments. My most recent and ongoing experience is in the Biology lab of Dr. Sanger, which is known around the department as the lizard lab. My work is on sex hormone signaling in embryological development. And for anyone reading this -- research is awesome. Definitely get involved, and if nothing’s open, just send out emails to professors whose work you think sounds cool. That’s how I got in to both of my formal lab experiences.

What do enjoy outside of class?  Outside of class my first hobby is ethics debate. Loyola’s ethics/bioethics bowl team has been a great community that has really added to my experience at Loyola. Learning about relevant ethical issues in fields like research and medicine bring an otherwise esoteric field into the forefront of one’s daily life. During normal times, my roommate and I try to make a point of trying a new restaurant every week and also hold to the traditional pizza Monday. Chicago has great food and a wonderful downtown scene that is definitely worth exploring. Aside from those, weightlifting and videogames are my main time wasters. But this paragraph makes it seem like I have a lot of free time – I don’t. The workload of a physics student is a fair amount, and with math and honors tacked onto that, it becomes a lot. Having a good work ethic is the one thing I can’t stress enough about college.

What are your post-Loyola plans?  Post-Loyola remains up in the air. I have applied to numerous (somewhere around 20) MD-PhD programs around the country, mainly for fields like medical physics, imaging, biophysics, and clinical trial research. If I get in I will be going. If not, I’ll be looking at PhD programs in those fields and MS opportunities. At this point I still don’t quite know what I want to do with my life, and I want to use this opportunity to try to normalize that. It’s wild to think that at 21 anyone could possibly know what they want to do for the next 45 years. Just try not to stress too much about that sort of thing; eventually you’ll find something you love doing. Lord knows I’ve shaved years off of my life being panicked about my future. Don’t you do it as well!

Do you have any advice for incoming physics/biophysics students?  My advice – get help fast. Dr. Cannon has been the single most helpful resource I have encountered at Loyola. My freshman advisor and the pre-health office didn’t ever reach out to me and I had no idea what was expected of me until I made a point of meeting with these people and point blank asking. Your teachers are a great and critically underutilized resource. They really do want the best for you and you should bother them as much as you need to during class and office hours so that you’re keeping up to speed. Study early and often and set deadlines for yourself. Sleep deprivation affects more than 90% of our country (yes, that is a real statistic – I have shadowing experience from a sleep medicine specialist) and young people are at a much greater risk. I won’t bore you with the details but just be aware that falling behind is very easy. Often college is seen as an opportunity to get a handle on who you want to be for the rest of your life. Make sure that you get most of that done within your first year, because things get a lot harder after your 101 lectures.