Meet Daniel Dykes, UAF BLaST April 2022 Scientist of the Month

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By Amy Topkok 

Since 2016, the Biomedical Learning and Student Training (BLaST) program at University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) has highlighted scientists from all biomedical fields through its Scientist of the Month articles.

These are shared across all UAF and University of Alaska Southeast rural campuses and with BLaST’s partners: Iļisaġvik College, Fort Lewis College, Diné College, Salish Kootenai College and Alaska Pacific University. For more BLaST Scientist of the Month highlights, visit their website

For more information about this article, please contact BLaST staff Amy Topkok at

BLaST April Scientist of the Month: Daniel Dykes

Daniel Dykes in Dr. Kuhn’s lab working to differentiate neuroblastoma cells from neuronal cells that had rounder bodies and longer dendrites, at the biomedical safety cabinet.
Daniel Dykes in Dr. Kuhn’s lab working to differentiate neuroblastoma cells from neuronal cells that had rounder bodies and longer dendrites, at the biomedical safety cabinet.


Daniel Dykes is a UAF senior pursuing a bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in psychology. Dykes was a fourth-year BLaST scholar from North Pole, Alaska, and is of Filipino descent. 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 obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) mice, conducted under Abel Bult-Ito, PhD, a former BLaST Faculty Pilot Project awardee (2016-2018). Dykes is currently working on the write-up for the project to be submitted to several research journals and it is the focus of his senior undergraduate capstone. He previously participated in the lab of Thomas Kuhn, PhD, a former BLaST Faculty Pilot Project awardee (2017-2019, and now retired), where he worked on growing neuroblastoma cells to differentiate them into more neuronal-like cells. 

“My interest in research is that I always strive to learn something new, 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 said. He 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; Kuhn for opening his lab with welcoming arms and letting Dykes see the joy of learning and working with cell cultures; and most of all, he would like to thank Natalia Podlutskaya, for “being the best (former) RAMP 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 has also been a certified tutor for two years with Student Support Services, a UAF First-Gen focused program. As a peer mentor, he loves being able to help other students with their classes and it helps keep his academic information fresh in his head. His tutoring expertise includes college algebra to precalculus, general writing, most levels of biology and some psychology. 

Dykes said his parents motivate him to succeed academically, 

“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,” he said. “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.”

The Diversity Program Consortium Coordination and Evaluation Center at UCLA is supported by Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health / National Institutes of General Medical Sciences under award number U54GM119024.
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