Q&A with genetics and cell biology student Thomas Ballinger

Where are you from and where did you graduate high school?

I am from Reno, Nevada, and I graduated high school from North Star Online School while dual enrolled in Truckee Meadows Community College. I am pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in music, as well as a Bachelor’s of Science in genetics and cell biology. 

What are some of your favorite hobbies?

Fencing was my favorite sport growing up and I joined the fencing club here at WSU but have not been able to go recently due to COVID and my studies. Other than fencing I spend a lot of my free time playing computer video games. I built my own gaming PC last summer. Lastly, I play piano, but I am not sure if that counts as a hobby since I am taking lesson credits here at WSU. I recently achieved my greatest accomplishment in piano, winning first place in the piano area for the New York Artists International Competition.

What’s your favorite thing about WSU?

My favorite thing about WSU would be the ample amount of opportunities for undergraduate research. I have been taking classes at WSU for four semesters and I have been working in a lab for three of those. It feels like there is so much going on throughout campus that it’s almost inevitable that you find something you like or find interesting. Also, the undergraduate research, in my experience, has not felt like the PI’s or grad students were just making me do the grunt work, but rather were interested in teaching me lab techniques and preparing me to be a scientist. 

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

My favorite course I’ve taken at WSU would have to be MBIOS 301, General Genetics, that I am currently taking this semester. It’s the first class I have taken that is specifically about my major and it has only reaffirmed my decision for what I want to study. The professor for the class is Andrew McCubbin. I like how in the lectures the professor includes results of experiments he did in the past, and overall the class seems to be more practically oriented to what we will be doing in the future than some of the other science courses I have taken.

What’s a unique fun fact about you?

The farthest I have been from the United States is Costa Rica, where my family lived with a local in their house for a month. It was really cool to experience a different culture and way of life that I was used to growing up in the U.S. I hope to one day be able to visit them again.

Thomas is planning to get his Ph.D. here at WSU through the Students Targeted through Advanced Research Studies (STARS) program.