Brett Pogostin '18 Wins Fulbright Research Award
In Ulf Olsson's lab in Lund, Sweden, the chemistry major will study how lipid molecules impact the peptide aggregation that forms plaques in the brain of Parkinson's patients.
Brett Pogostin is passionate about two things: scientific research and the great outdoors. At Haverford that has meant that the chemistry major joined Karin Åkerfeldt's bioorganic chemistry lab—where he continues to conduct research—in his first semester on campus and that he has led many backpacking trips as leader of both Haverford's Outdoor Club (HavOC) and the Pre-Customs Outdoor Orientation Program. Next year Pogostin will continue pursuing both interests thanks to a Fulbright U.S. Student Award that is sending him to Lund, Sweden.
Pogostin, who is also a biochemistry concentrator and a health studies minor, is headed to the University of Lund to work in the lab of physical chemist Ulf Olsson with Sarah Linse, a longtime collaborator of Åkerfeldt's and a member of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry. Together they will research how lipid molecules impact the peptide aggregation that forms plaques in the brains of those with Parkinson's disease and try to discover if any of those peptide-lipid plaques could be repurposed for biomedical use.
"I want to put my Haverford chemistry and biochemistry education to work developing novel materials that could improve access to and quality of healthcare," says Pogostin, who plans to pursue a bioengineering Ph.D. after his Fulbright year. "Taking health studies classes incited my interest in health access and equity. Often these issues are only tackled from the social and policy side, and I want to conduct research in a manner that is more conscious of existing inequality in the health care system and how new biotechnologies could ameliorate these issues."
His Fulbright year in Lund will not be the first that Pogostin will have been in Sweden, nor will it be the first time he's worked with Olsson.
"In the summer after my junior year, Karin offered me the opportunity to actually travel to the University of Lund to use their facilities to make progress on my thesis work and to start a new collaboration with Ulf Olsson," says Pogostin, whose thesis is on investigating structure-function relationships in peptide-based hydrogels. "I loved working with Ulf and his lab over the summer, so when Ulf, Sara, and Karin suggested that I consider applying for a Fulbright to work on a new project starting up at Lund I agreed immediately."
Pogostin will be one of only eight student-research award winners in Sweden next year. Receiving the Fulbright—which will fund round-trip travel; room, board, and incidentals; and health insurance for the year—means that not only will he get to continue his peptide research, but it also ensures that the avid hiker and member of Haverford's Ultimate Frisbee team will get to spend plenty of time exploring the Swedish outdoors.
"I intend to take full advantage of the Scandinavian wilderness," he says. "This past summer I did a two-week solo backpacking trip through the Swedish artic on the King's Trail, and I would love to go back and explore more. I'm also excited to see the Northern Lights, cross-country ski, and backpack through Norway and other parts of Europe. There is still much to explore in Sweden, and I'm excited to go back!"