Durham research scientist shares lesson with KHS students
Research scientist Anna Bryant plays a game with students in Crystal Payton-Demry’s biomedical technology class at Kinston High School to illustrate the development of antibiotic resistance. Scientists with interesting personal stories, as well as interesting academic lessons, are frequent visitors in Payton-Demry’s classes. Submitted photo
Anna Bryant is passionate about science and, as a scientist, enamored of viruses.
“The more I learned about how viruses actually work, the more I thought that these are amazing,” Bryant said. “You can’t see them, they are as simple as it gets, but they do incredible things. Think about the impact they have on our lives, obviously the amount of time we spend trying to survive in their presence.”
A research scientist with Novozymes in Durham, Bryant brought information about antibiotics and immunity to the students in Crystal Payton-Demry’s biomedical technology classes at Kinston High School, but the lesson that will likely stick with students the longest is the lesson of Anna Bryant.
She is characteristic of the guests Payton-Demry invites into her classroom a couple of times a year — young, engaging and a walking, talking example of success in the field of science.
“It’s real life,” the teacher said. “I like having someone come in, share their experiences with students and show them that this is what they went through. They’re saying, if you’re interested, these are the steps you can go through. I like the hands-on, real-life experiences.”
After playing a dice game with students that illustrated the development of antibiotic resistance and talking with them about herd immunity — the community’s responsibility to develop immunity to protect its most vulnerable members — Bryant talked with them about their future plans, about her enthusiasm for “dissecting things,” about the penetrating, clinging smell of formaldehyde and — to one senior interested in obstetrics — what college course work she should anticipate.
Her own story is one of perseverance, of taking what she calls “the long route” to her work as a research and development scientist.
“I failed physics twice so I thought maybe I wasn’t going to be a scientist,” she said after class. “I finally bucked up and went through with it. I got my bachelor’s in biology and my master’s in microbiology and it was all kind of a medical angle. Immunology was actually my focus. I really loved infectious diseases.
“But I had a great opportunity to work with a biotech company after my master’s degree and wound up working more in environmental microbiology.”
Bryant leaves the lab as often as she can to talk to students, she said.
“I’m super passionate about science and love being able to share it,” she said.