Q&A with genetics and cell biology student Nolan Middleton

Nolan sitting on steps outside on campus.

Nolan Middleton plans to graduate with a pair of degrees in genetics and cell biology and theoretical mathematics this coming spring before continuing his education in graduate school. From Ephrata, Washington, Nolan graduated from Ephrata High School while also earning credits at Big Bend Community College in Moses Lake through the Running Start program.

How has WSU prepared you for your future?

Seeing as though I intend to go on into graduate school, simply taking classes can be considered preparation for the future. Beyond that, though, working as an undergraduate researcher has been even better. My goal currently is to do research, and working in a lab is just that. You can’t get much better preparation than doing the actual thing.

What’s your favorite thing about WSU?

Coming from a small town in eastern Washington, I think my favorite thing about WSU is that it’s also in a small town in eastern Washington. The traffic isn’t bad (game days aside), it’s not “the big city,” and I’m not terribly far from home.

What’s your favorite course you’ve taken at WSU?

There have only been a small handful of classes that I haven’t enjoyed, but I’ll go ahead and say that Math 420 (Linear Algebra) was my favorite. Dr. Asaki taught the class, and we went over everything (with incredible depth) from the standpoint of solving two problems: Computer Assisted Tomography (CAT) and heat-states of a metal rod in a diffusion-welding setup. The CAT problem was especially intriguing, and we learned about the singular-value decomposition to solve it. The entire idea is to go backward from a non-injective, non-surjective transformation with noisy data. This was a seemingly impossible task, which made it all the more rewarding when we finally did solve it.

What do you hope to do when you graduate? 

When I graduate, I hope to go on to graduate school. Hopefully, I’ll obtain a PhD one day and do research in bioinformatics or computational biology. The goal is to do research regarding cancer.

Do you have any jobs?

I have been working for the math department for the past several semesters, where I have been grading for classes and working as a tutor in the Math Learning Center. I’ve been working in Dr. Eric Shelden’s lab in the School of Molecular Biosciences as well, doing research on neuroblastoma. The project I’m working on involves a bioinformatical analysis utilizing functional enrichment analysis to find genetic risk factors for pediatric neuroblastoma.

What’s one of your favorite hobbies?

My favorite “hobby” is probably cards. I don’t gamble (I’m a math major), but I like playing games like Whist, Euchre, Bezique, Pinochle, Klabberjass, etc. I’m not the greatest at them, but I thoroughly enjoy playing.

What’s a unique fun fact about you?

It’s not terribly unique, since Dr. Shelden and Nuha Haque also went, but this last spring I was able to attend the American Association for Cancer Research’s annual meeting in Orlando, Florida. It was a lot of fun, and I was able to present a poster about the research project I’m working on in Dr. Shelden’s lab.