Henry Bair ’17 is quite a renaissance man. As a student pursuing degrees in biochemistry and cell biology and medieval and early modern studies, he has embraced research as the raison d’être of his Rice undergraduate experience. In a recent Thresher opinion piece, he told his fellow students, “In losing yourself amidst your research, you might just discover yourself — your scholarly self. And that, in itself, is a marvelous thing.”
Henry speaks from experience, of course. Under the guidance of his research mentor Jonathan Liu and pediatric surgeon Matthew Harting from the University of Texas Medical School, Henry is studying congenital diaphragmatic hernias, which occur in 1 of 2,500 live births. On campus, under the supervision of Professor Linda Neagley, he is researching the “Book of Durrow,” a lavishly illustrated medieval Irish manuscript that predates the famous Book of Kells by more than a century.
“As undergraduates, the world is ours to inherit, so it’s important for us to build the right kinds of skills, the right mindset and the right kind of rigorous, conscientious thinking that will enable us to better take control of the future.”
Henry is also a participant in the interdisciplinary Rice Undergraduate Scholars Program, in which student researchers from departments across campus meet weekly to discuss their research, practice giving elevator pitches and writing grant proposals, attend seminars, and learn about the life of a professional researcher.
After graduation, Henry plans to pursue an M.D./Ph.D. and become a physician and scientist. “A lot of that has to do with the research I’m doing now in the medical center,” he explained. “A lot of children with congenital diaphragmatic hernias don’t survive, and that encourages me to be better at my job because I can see the difference I can potentially make.”
Henry credits his experience in the humanities at Rice with making him a better research scientist. “I’m a very staunch supporter of medical humanities and a liberal arts education,” Henry said. “The humanities open up your creativity and help you consider different perspectives. They also give you the skills to communicate well, organize arguments, educate audiences and bring more to the human experience.”
“As undergraduates,” he continued, “the world is ours to inherit, so it’s important for us to build the right kinds of skills, the right mindset and the right kind of rigorous, conscientious thinking that will enable us to better take control of the future. It doesn’t matter what discipline you’re in."