Biology major fast-tracks his Kennesaw State experience

Barrett Upton
Barrett Upton 

KENNESAW, Ga. (Jul 29, 2021) — Barrett Upton enjoys staying ahead of the game.

He arrived at Kennesaw State in 2018 with college credits in hand through a dual enrollment program. By the end of his sophomore year, he realized that, with diligence, he could finish his undergraduate degree ahead of schedule and get an early start on becoming a chiropractor.

“It was always in the back of my mind that I could graduate early,” he said. “Last year, that goal really became clear, so I developed a plan and stuck with it.”

He took classes the past two summers and did neuroscience research in the laboratory of associate professor of biology Martin Hudson. This week, he will walk down the aisle at the Convocation Center with his bachelor’s degree in biology.

“It’s always exciting to achieve your goals,” he said. “My academic counselor, my professors, my friends and family helped me get to where I am today, and KSU was definitely the right place for me to make this happen.”

Upton chose KSU after hearing about the great experiences older relatives enjoyed. Once on campus, he jump-started his college career by participating in the Advanced Majors Program, which offers accelerated classes and a community of like-minded learners for students in the College of Science and Mathematics. He credited the program for keeping him on task and motivated by putting him in contact with other high achievers.

“I think the most important lesson I have learned at KSU is to get out of your shell and talk to people,” he said. “I’ve gotten to know some great people here, and they have helped me out when I needed some assistance with my classes.”

Coming out of his shell also landed him in Hudson’s lab, thanks to a fellow participant in AMP, who suggested Upton get involved. In the lab, Upton studied the sense of smell of a microscopic worm called a nematode, producing a project that he presented in the Symposium of Student Scholars in April, and one that will inform other projects. The professor said Upton discovered that worms with defects in a certain part of the brain will be repelled by a smell they normally love, which indicates a mutation and could have implications in research on human genetics as well.

“This suggests that something has happened in the underlying olfactory neuron circuit that's driving an opposite response to that smell,” Hudson said. “Barrett found an exciting development, and we're looking forward to developing this project further.

Upton said the rigors of lab work under Hudson’s tutelage prepared him well for a blend of teamwork in chiropractic school and the self-sufficiency of a medical practice.

“After meeting Dr. Hudson that first time, I could tell he had my best interests in mind with helping me with what I wanted to do in life beyond the lab,” Upton said. “We prepared each week for projects that we presented at the Symposium of Student Scholars at the end of the semester, which helped not only in my classes, but that lab work helped me develop my study habits, too.”

Upton will start in the Doctor of Chiropractic program at Life University this fall, fulfilling a lifelong goal. Since taking summer 2019 off from classes, he has spent six consecutive semesters in school, earning Dean’s and President’s list honors.

While he admitted feeling a little stressed within the accelerated track, he said he wouldn’t have wanted to experience college any other way.

“I don't believe there ever was a point where I questioned speeding up my college years,” he said. “I knew that I had to keep pushing. Everything has turned out for the best.”

– Dave Shelles

Photos by Jason Getz


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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 41,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the second-largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 126 countries across the globe. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu

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