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Beth Ryan

Beth Ryan is unapologetic about nerding out to biochemistry and what might just be the coolest job ever: designing the future of medicine.

Woman in laboratory injecting something into a vial.

Beth Ryan where she feels most comfortable: in the laboratory within the Center for Natural Sciences. (Photo by Adam Baker.)

Beth Ryan never imagined she’d want to design drugs for a living. But thanks to an unexpected love of biochemistry and all the complex—and sometimes weird—molecules that make up life, that’s where her research and career goals are headed. 

“It's kind of the strangest feeling to have found what you're supposed to be doing,” Beth said. “Especially if what you're supposed to be doing is biochemistry, organic synthesis, something that I never thought about until I came to college.” 

Beth discovered this passion when she took organic chem her first year at Ithaca College. In the years since, she’s conducted experiments that explore how to prevent bacteria from talking with each other. Because if they can’t communicate, they can’t coordinate and attack the body. 

Her work at IC may be expanded upon by other researchers down the road. “We’re just doing the dirty work, the nitty gritty of seeing if it’s even possible to make a covalent drug that targets this particular enzyme. Maybe years in the future, we can get a compound out of it.”

Beth’s research and commitment to the natural sciences even landed her the prestigious Barry Goldwater Scholarship. And to think she didn’t apply the first time her faculty advisor suggested she do so. Some gentle insistence from that same advisor the following year spurred Beth to throw her name in the mix.  

“It's kind of the strangest feeling to have found what you're supposed to be doing."

It turned out well: she was one of 410 college sophomores and juniors, out of 1,200 finalists, selected. 

“That made me realize that I can compete at the national level,” she said. “It's one thing to think about my progress here as a student, my GPA and all these things that define you when you're applying for programs. 

“But winning that made me feel as though I can do this—maybe I do know what I'm talking about, maybe I do belong in this field. It was definitely confirmation that I'm on the right track for something.” 

Beth is quick to redirect credit for the scholarship to the mentors she’s found among her professors.   

“The only reason that I'm able to sit here and say, ‘Oh, I won a Goldwater scholarship,’ is because of them. They taught me literally everything I know.” 

Beth is the daughter of two parents who have or continue to serve in the U.S. military, so she bounced around a lot growing up—a lot. Her love of biochemistry and involvement with the local ROTC satisfy an ingrained call to service.  

But she’s found a home in Ithaca, specifically on the top floor of the Center for Natural Sciences. 

“It just feels like my space up there. I'm most comfortable there on the third floor,” she said. “That's where all my big moments have happened.”