It’s understandable if Ryan Pachucki has a sense of déjà vu during Rutgers University–Camden’s commencement ceremony on May 21. It wasn’t long ago that he walked across the stage at the Susquehanna Bank Center on the Camden Waterfront to receive his bachelor’s degree.
This year, Pachucki will step into his own footprints as he receives his master’s degree in biology, a mere two years after completing his undergraduate degree at Rutgers–Camden.
“As an undergraduate, I didn’t see the impact of the research I was doing,” says Pachucki, two years older and wiser. The Burlington Township resident and Burlington Township High School graduate says he’s grown tremendously since his undergraduate years, and he owes it all to the research experience he gained on his path to earning his master’s degree.
“Now, I think more critically and can design my own experiments and come up with my own hypothesis and test it,” Pachucki says. “Doing research is a way to think outside the box and beyond how you might approach things in the classroom, and that’s what I like about it.”
As an undergraduate, Pachucki studied Neurospora crassa, a type of fungus that grows in the New Jersey Pine Barrens and in temperate regions around the world. He sought answers to many interesting and important ecological questions, such as how the fungus adapts to different environments, and how it colonizes natural habitats after wild fire.
During his graduate education, Pachucki took the research a step further.
“I started looking at populations of fungus that grow globally and wanted to understand how circadian rhythms work within that global species,” he says.
A circadian rhythm is any biological process driven by daily changes.
“The idea was to get a more accurate view of how these rhythms help the fungus adapt to local environments,” Pachucki says.
He notes this can relate to human health by understanding the underlying molecular mechanisms of how circadian rhythms work in nature.
“Our research has demonstrated a novel mechanism on how circadian rhythms have increased the fitness of an overall organism in a natural population,” he says.
The work has driven Pachucki to pursue a career in research, something he credits to working under the guidance of Rutgers–Camden faculty members like Kwangwon Lee, Eric Klein, Jongmin Nam, and Sunil Shende.
“I think I’ve become a lot more independent and I’ve gained confidence in myself that I didn’t really have before,” he says. “I’m more confident in my ability to do research and because of that, I want to contribute to science through research. It’s really about the opportunities and the people here that any student can take advantage of to be successful. It just depends on how hard you work.”
After commencement, Pachucki will pursue his doctoral degree in biomedical sciences at Temple University and he recently learned he is a recipient of Temple’s Presidential Future Faculty Fellowship.