BLaST April Scientist of the Month: Daniel Dykes

Daniel Dykes
JR Ancheta photo

The Biomedical Learning and Student Training program at UAF highlights scientists from all biomedical fields through their Scientist of the Month articles, and have done so since 2016. These articles are shared across all University of Alaska Fairbanks and University of Alaska Southeast rural campuses, Iļisaġvik College, and with BLaST’s partners: Fort Lewis College, Diné College, Salish Kootenai College, and Alaska Pacific University. 

Daniel Dykes is a UAF senior pursuing a bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in psychology. Dykes, a fourth-year BLaST scholar from North Pole of Filipino descent, is the Scholar of the Month for April. He plans to graduate in the summer of 2022. His hobbies include playing board and card games, streaming video games for UAF, and teaching his cats tricks. Dykes’ research interest mainly focuses on mental health, and his future goal is to attend medical school and become a practicing surgeon in the state of Alaska.

“My career aspirations with respect to biomedicine are that I want to help discover, engineer, and create solutions to people's neurological disorders and mental problems,” he said.

Before starting college, Dykes stated he had no research experience. Once he became a BLaST student, he loved every minute of learning about research processes and working with others in the lab. The research he found most enjoyable was when he joined the study on the effects of social isolation on OCD mice, conducted under Abel Bult-Ito. Dykes is currently working on a paper for the project to submit to several research journals.

Dykes previously worked in the lab of  former BLaST faculty pilot project awardee Thomas Kuhn, where he grew neuroblastoma cells to differentiate them into more neuronal-like cells.

“My interest in research is that I always strive to learn something new," he said. "Whether it’s something small like learning about common genealogy between friends, or much larger projects such as programming prosthetics to respond to brain signals and impulses. The idea of breaking the frontier of research is a thrilling thing for me, it’s exciting to be on the brink of an unknown breakthrough.”

Dykes attended and presented his research at the Society for The Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science in early October 2018.

Dykes would like to give thanks to Bult-Ito for being patient with him, being a positive influence, and helping him take the first steps into research; and Kuhn for opening his lab with welcoming arms and letting Dykes see the joy of learning and working with cell cultures. Most of all, he would like to thank Natalia Podlutskaya, for “being the best mentor that anyone could have in the BLaST program,” for always supporting him, and for making sure he has kept on track throughout her four years of being his mentor.

Dykes is also a certified tutor under Student Support Services, a UAF First-Gen focused program, for almost two years. As a peer mentor, he loves being able to help other students with their classes, which helps keep his academic information fresh in his head. His tutoring expertise includes college algebra to precalculus, general writing, almost all levels of biology, and some psychology classes.

“My parents are what motivate me to succeed academically," he said. "Throughout my whole life, starting in preschool, my dad has pushed for me to do my best, whether it's in sports, homework, or cleaning. That’s his mantra, for everyone to do their best. By being a part of the BLaST community, it has allowed me to make connections with like-minded individuals with the same research interests so collaboration will be available in the future.”

More information about the BLaST Scientist of the Month articles can be found on the BLaST website.

CONTACT: Amy Topkok,