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Undergraduate Programs

BMB Features: Rachel Bruning

Image of Rachel Brunning

The Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department is proud to be called home to some of the most outstanding undergraduate students in higher education.  These students display a high level of dedication, not only in furthering their education but in their desire to be on the frontlines of scientific discovery.  

Meet Rachel Bruning, a junior majoring in both Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and French.  Rachel has always had an aptitude for science and recalls loving the hands-on learning that always accompanied her teachers experiments in elementary and middle school.  While taking an AP Biology class in high school, Rachel cemented her desire to pursue a degree in molecular biology.  “I found myself fascinated by the diversity and minutiae of cellular pathways we were studying,” said Rachel.

Rachel was no stranger to Penn State.  Coming from a long line of Penn Staters, she grew up considering Happy Valley her second home.   When it came time to decide on the university she would call home for the next 4 years, she knew that Penn State would offer her the best undergraduate experience possible.  “I knew that Penn State would allow me to continue the Penn State tradition I knew and loved thanks to my own family of alumni, while still paving my own path and creating my own unique Penn State story,” Rachel said.  “Penn State has offered me the chance to take courses I am passionate about in both the sciences and the humanities, become involved on campus in a diverse array of student organizations, and to engage in outstanding undergraduate research.  Even more, I know that in becoming a Penn State student, I have joined an immense community of passionate leaders that will support me far beyond my four years on campus.”

As a Penn State student Rachel has further developed her love of science by pairing it with her love of the humanities.  She sees her studies as a French Major, in conjunction with her Global Health Minor, as a way to communicate the importance of scientific research to the local, national, and global communities of which she is a part.  Through her Global Health Minor program Rachel will participate in a global health fieldwork experience in the summer of 2021.  

The health fieldwork experience, made possible through the Biobehavioral Health Department within the College of Health and Human Development, is a five-week program focused on engaging students in inter-cultural encounters that foster a greater understanding of global health issues.  The day-to-day activities of the experience allow students the opportunity to observe, and when appropriate, to contribute to a number of local projects that provide a better understanding of global health inequity.  Rachel hopes this opportunity will help her develop the skills necessary to communicate and work collaboratively with people of diverse backgrounds and experiences within a healthcare setting.

While she is not currently an undergraduate researcher, Rachel participated in the NASA Pennsylvania Space Grant Consortium’s Women in Science and Engineering Research (WISER) Program as a freshman and sophomore student.  During that time, she worked under the guidance of assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, Timothy Miyashiro.  Her research studied the mutualistic symbiosis between the Hawaiian Bobtail Squid and the bioluminescent bacteria Vibrio fischeri and sought to better understand the different mechanisms bacteria utilize to adapt to host environments.

Outside of the classroom Rachel serves as a Lion Ambassador for the University, volunteers with THON, and has been elected to serve as the President of the Student Philanthropy Network for the 2020 – 2021 academic year.

After graduating from Penn State Rachel plans to spend a year teaching and serving abroad.  She then plans to enroll in medical school and pursue her career in medicine while also earning her Masters of Public Health degree.  Her goal is to use her interest and education in both medicine and public health to clinically treat patients, while working with healthcare professionals and members of underserved communities around the world to increase access to primary and preventative care.