Malcolm Kates ’16 has always been able to see the big picture. That’s why, upon graduating from the College, he knew that taking a “gap year” would be the best thing in the long run.
It wasn’t until Kates received a National Institutes of Health Postbac Intramural Research Training Award to study genetically inherited muscular disorders at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, however, that his parents got on board with the idea.
“They’re really excited now,” says Kates, who double majored in biology and international studies and plans to attend medical school next year. “And I’m more excited about what I want to do now, too.”
As an undergraduate, Kates worked in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Medical University of South Carolina, where he studied alcohol dependence in mice for two years. He’s getting an entirely different perspective in the at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
“At MUSC, I worked in more of a bench science lab, but, being at the NIH, I get to work with patients, too,” explains Kates. “I get to see the translation between research and application. You definitely get more appreciation for the who and the why behind what you’re doing.”
He’s especially enjoyed seeing how the different parts of the lab work together.
“Being in an NIH lab is amazing because there are so many different people in there, and everyone has their own experiments going on. Everyone is doing their own thing, but it’s all for the same purpose, so it’s this incredibly collaborative atmosphere,” says Kates, a McLeod-Frampton Scholar, who also was a William Aiken Fellow and International Scholar in the Honors College. “It’s an opportunity to see how all the research fits together. It just adds to the big picture.”
Kates credits the College with providing the perfect canvas for that picture.
“In the liberal arts and sciences environment, you get a ton of experience in all different areas – not just the sciences – and that helped me look at science from the perspective of why and how,” says Kates. “It taught me about how science is influenced by healthcare policy, business and politics. But I think that’s also what kept me excited. That variety is what prevented me from getting too burned out.”
Kates thrived on a variety of extracurricular activities at the College, too: He served as an Honors ambassador, captain of the tennis team and an executive board member of Charleston 40, the school’s official student-led tour organization.
“I couldn’t have been that involved without my scholarships,” says Kates, who – as one of the 11 graduates of the Swanson Scholars Program’s inaugural class – is grateful for all the support Steve ’89 and Emily Molony Swanson ’89 showed him and his classmates during their four years at the College. “Steve and Emily are more than donors. They really cared about our education and tried to be a real part of that. They were always there, without fail.”
The four-year Swanson Scholars Program was established to bring the most academically gifted students to the Honors College.
“When the best and brightest go into a program like the Honors College, all boats float higher,” says Steve Swanson. “The students are more engaged, the professors who teach them are more challenged, the whole College improves. And when that happens, it is good for the entire Charleston community. When you have these kinds of students in your population, everyone wins.”
And, as Kates can attest, it’s all about the big picture.