Working in the laboratory of Dr. Rob Dunn has given N.C. State University biological sciences student Justin Hills insight into – and passion for – public health and science communication. This summer, he’s headed to Ghana to investigate liver cancer, a first step in his quest to help address health disparities that exist among different communities nationally and internationally. Hear more in this audio slideshow, with photos by Becky Kirkland, N.C. State University Communications.
I’ve always been one to like to explain my biology homework to my mom or to my friends and things like but I didn’t know I could make a career out of that or there were people who did that for a living.
My name is Justin Hills, and I am a sophomore here at N.C. State from Charlotte, North Carolina, And my major is biological sciences with a concentration in human biology. And I’m working on a minor in African studies.
I definitely know that upon graduation I want to attend medical school, and I also want to pursue a career in public health, because I really enjoy some of the work I’ve been doing with Dr. Rob Dunn as a science communicator.
I’ve spent the last academic year working with Dr. Dunn in the Department of Biology with his Bellybutton Biodiversity project and the Wild Life of Your Home projects, where we are asking people to sample common areas around their house so that we can see what lives with them and on them. So that’s always pretty neat asking people to swab their countertops and their pillowcases and stuff like that.
Being in Dr. Dunn’s lab this semester and last semester has sparked the interest in research and being a science communicator, so this summer I actually plan on going to Ghana to study abroad there and do some research university with the University of Alabama (at Birmingham’s) School of Public Health. I will be traveling to Kumasi, Ghana, to work in a teaching hospital there to study liver cancer and to see how different factors in the community there can lead to changes in liver cancer. …
I’m also a University Ambassador, so I give tours. … And then I’m also involved with MAPS here at N.C. State, which is the Minority Association of Pre-Health Students. The main focus of MAPS is to combat health disparities both nationally and internationally.
I’m one of the first in my family to come to a large school like this. One of my worries was getting lost in the mix somewhere. And since day one I haven’t had that problem. I’ve always been able to interact with great professors like Dr. Dunn and all my other teachers here that, one, take an interest in my career goals and then want to help me to reach them, too. So that’s what got me here, and it is the reason why I’m staying.