By Jessica Weber

Alexander Brinkley

Alexander Brinkley, 21, received his bachelor’s degree in biology in spring 2021. (UCR/Stan Lim)

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From the heart

Brinkley graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology this spring and will pursue medical school with aspirations of becoming a physician scientist, melding his love of research and patient care. He attributes his interest in medicine to frequent trips to the hospital in fifth grade due to a heart condition and his positive interactions with a cardiologist. “There was a period of time where we were discussing open heart surgery,” Brinkley said. “Him being able to really calm me down and talk to me — I think he sort of turned my fear into interest and fascination.”

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Save the bees

Brinkley worked in entomology professor Hollis Woodard’s behavioral ecology lab for four years, where he studied the effects of pesticides on the metabolism and energetic states of bumblebees. He was awarded the Chancellor’s Research Fellowship his senior year and used the money to continue his research and complete his senior thesis. “It’s just been an incredible experience working with her,” Brinkley said of Woodard. “I was trying to determine whether I would go into research or medicine, and my experiences in the lab ultimately showed me that I don’t think I could really enjoy or work in a career without either of those.”

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On the road

A Los Angeles native, Brinkley has traveled extensively with his family in Europe and across the U.S., even spending a few years on the road while being homeschooled. His parents, who work in the film and music industry, made
the decision as a way to spend more time together as a family. From sixth to eighth grade, Brinkley spent much of that time driving with them cross-country in an RV. “We just hit every national park we possibly could,” he said. “They wanted to travel to teach us and expose us to different cultures, and that I’m really grateful for.”

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Good fellow

Brinkley has earned several prestigious awards and scholarships, including the Regents Scholarship, which compelled him to attend UCR. But he’s most proud of the Chancellor’s Research Fellowship, which also provided him with opportunities for professional development and the chance to interact with faculty and administrators. Brinkley said: “I hosted a lunch and afternoon talk with one of UCR’s Nobel laureates, Dr. Richard Schrock — that was pretty cool.” Brinkley’s other awards include the University Honors Excellence in Research Scholarship, CNAS RISE fellowship, and UCR Alumni Association Freshman Scholarship.

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Pass it on

Brinkley served on the Student Editorial Board of UCR’s Undergraduate Research Journal, as a CNAS Science Ambassador and University Honors Academic Outreach Coordinator, and as vice president of the American Medical Student Association. But his experience as a PERSIST Peer Mentor was the most rewarding. “A large part of my success and putting myself in the right direction was from a peer mentor that I had back in my first year,” he said. “This is sort of the ultimate giving back for me, being able to really help out these kids and give them what I had when I was a first year.”