Not many people have toured the country playing in metal bands to sold out venues and then gone on to study pre-med. Senior Biology major Joel Seier’s path to EWU has been anything but average. For over ten years he played guitar in various rock acts, including touring the country with Memphis May Fire. “Driving around the country, I saw how a lot of people live. It made me feel pretty lucky.”
It took more than luck to land a touring gig as a guitarist for Memphis May Fire, starting with “years of work that didn’t go anywhere,” Seier admits. “But the experience definitely taught me perseverance.”
After a year on the road with only small breaks between tours, he became skeptical of life as a touring musician. He moved back to Spokane and kept playing music with local bands, and worked as a barista. And he began taking math and science classes at community college.
“I like to know how things work,” he said. “I’m fascinated by the diversity of biology, from virology to ecology.”
He decided right away on a career as a physician, and he began volunteering at hospitals and job shadowing to get experience and make sure he really would like it.
After two years at community college he transferred to UW, but soon found he missed the affordability and slower pace of Spokane. When EWU said they said they would accept him right away, he finished up the year and transferred into the Biology program.
This year he’s assisting a grad student researching dopamine in the neurobiology lab. Together they’re building a new type of carbon fiber electrode. It’s proven to be more receptive than the old carbon fibers, which they already have a ton of data on.
“I’m building electrodes right now. Under the microscope I weave the carbon fiber through a capillary, then pin it to the electrode with silver. There is a lot of room for things to go wrong at this stage, and the carbon fiber often breaks,” he says, smiling. “I have to start over. It’s one of the joys of research.”
Then they test each and every electrode on non-living systems, perfecting the electrodes. This is a critical as the next step is live-testing on lab rats.
“Seeing the active measure of dopamine in a rat is exciting, seeing it spike on the computer.” The experience has made Seier interested in becoming a neurologist. “Knowing that I made these electrodes is really cool.”
Last year he did research with cryobiology. “Basically, we were freezing fish reproductive cells and seeing if we can re-fertilize them. Cryopreservation,” he said, “has huge implications for researching and breeding endangered species.”
Seier is happy with his experience at EWU, and finds the smaller class sizes a good balance for his personality. “I like it here. There are a lot of opportunities for hands-on research,” he said, “and actually knowing my professors is awesome.”