Brian Heine

Brian Heine, a senior in chemistry and biochemistry at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, works in a laboratory recently. A Trico High School graduate and Southern Illinois native, Heine is the first in his family to attend a four-year university. He will graduate this week with a degree in chemistry and a commission as an engineering officer in the Army National Guard, and he plans to attend graduate school at SIU. (Photo by Steve Buhman)

December 13, 2016

First-generation student takes advantage of opportunities

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- For Brian Heine, getting a glimpse of what holds the universe together made his choice of majors easy.

“I picked chemistry as my major because I've always been interested in science, but chemistry was so fundamental it’s almost like peeking behind the curtain, if you will, and getting down to the fabric of the universe.”

Heine, along with hundreds of others, will earn his bachelor’s degree from Southern Illinois University Carbondale during fall commencement at the SIU Arena on Saturday, Dec. 17. For the Trico High School graduate and Southern Illinois native, the last four years have been filled with thrills, challenges and accomplishments as one of the top students in the College of Science and a soon-to-be-commissioned officer in the Army National Guard.

He’s the first in his family to attend a university, and Heine has made the most of the opportunity, racking up activities and accomplishments and building a solid future for himself in the field of chemistry.

He’s a member of the student chapter of the American Chemical Society as well as the Alpha Chi Sigma professional chemistry fraternity.

Research, a hallmark of life as an undergraduate at SIU, has also been a major part of Heine’s life. In 2011 he worked as a researcher for the American Cancer Society and in 2012 he worked as an extra help employee at the SIU School of Medicine, maintaining a laboratory, preparing stock solutions, training new students and running another research project.

Participating in Army ROTC on the SIU campus took up a major portion of his time and will pay off this week in his receiving a commission as an engineering officer. As a contracted cadet since 2013, he was responsible for managing a group of peers in the commissioning program. He also participated in an overseas deployment to Romania, where he helped to improve the English language proficiency of Romanian service members.

But Heine points to his work as a student researcher in the laboratory of Boyd Goodson, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, as being the most important of all his experiences as an undergraduate. Funded by top organizations such as the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, among others, Goodson has worked for years in the hyperpolarization field.

Hyperpolarization refers to the many techniques available that will effectively magnetize nuclei in the body’s molecules much more highly than if they are magnetized by just a powerful magnet, such as in a magnetic resonance imaging machine, or MRI. The work holds great promise for vastly more powerful imaging technology that could make it possible for doctors to see not only what’s inside the body, such as bones and organs, but how the physiology is working at the molecular level. 

In his role as an undergraduate researcher for Goodson, Heine was responsible for operating and maintaining all computer and mechanical equipment in the laboratory. He also was in charge of accounting and creating work schedules for other lab employees

Heine said working with Goodson was key to his success as a student. The faculty member also got Heine to consider furthering his education.

“The most inspiring person to me is my boss and instructor, Boyd Goodson, who was one of my first teachers here,” Heine said. “He has pushed me to excel and to attend graduate school. As the first one in my family to attend or graduate from a four-year university, I always appreciated having someone pushing me and being there for advice.”

Goodson said Heine possesses a can-do attitude and brings a strong work ethic to his studies.

“He has a cheerful disposition and a great sense of humor, too,” Goodson said. “And he’s not afraid of tackling challenging subjects.”

Having participated in research since 2012, Heine has gained a variety of laboratory skills, including proficiently using multiple chemistry instruments, especially nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometers.

Heine said working on Goodson’s research projects has allowed him to see what can be possible in science.

“It’s been the most rewarding experience of my undergraduate time, working as a student researcher,” he said. “I've been able to contribute to active research here on campus for over four years now.”

Heine intends to stay at SIU for graduate school, focusing his research on physical chemistry.