Meet a Mustang: Tyler Gandy '18
“One of the oldest mysteries in the world is knowing how the human body works,” says Tyler Gandy ‘18. Now a Research Specialist for the Baack Lab at Sanford Research in Sioux Falls, he’s using what he learned at Morningside to help solve this mystery and pave the way for future researchers.
But researching the human body doesn’t produce answers overnight. Some researchers may spend their entire careers on a discovery that seems small, but their contribution lays the groundwork for the next generation of scientists to make advancements. Biomedical researchers like Tyler work together to continue exploring the human body and using what they learn to create therapies, vaccines, and cures that otherwise wouldn’t exist.
Tyler’s current research explores how maternal diabetes affects fetal heart development using human umbilical mesenchymal stem cells. Something that surprises people about his work is that there are multiple types of stem cells. “Whenever people hear the term ‘stem cells,’ most automatically think of embryonic stem cells which are illegal for research in most states,” he notes. “But when they learn that there are multiple types like the mesenchymal stem cells that I use, they are surprised and become curious.” For this project, Tyler helped create a three-dimensional scaffold from cord blood plasma that holds mesenchymal stem cells as a way to recreate the cell’s native environment. But his work doesn’t stop there - due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he has also been assisting with COVID-19 testing as well.
The path that brought Tyler to a career in biomedical research started with an interest in biology and psychology, two fields of study he was able to combine in Morningside’s biopsychology program. From there, an opportunity to work with neuronal cells to study Alzeheimer’s with associate professor of biology Chad Leugers opened his eyes to the work of biomedical research. Opportunities like this were the reason Tyler chose Morningside. “I felt that going to a smaller school would allow me opportunities that I would never get at a larger institution,” he reflects. “And to Morningside’s credit, I was right.”
Tyler says it was because of opportunities provided by the faculty in the biology, chemistry, and psychology departments that he was able to learn valuable skills and experience success in his current role. Instructors like Chad Leugers and Jessica LaPaglia, associate professor of psychology, let him help with their research, while Anni Moore, assistant professor of biology, showed him that learning can be fun. Some of his favorite research projects included Dr. LaPaglia’s research on the influence of retrieval on the misinformation effect, Dr. Leugers’ work with tau proteins, and Dr. Moore’s research on glacial and riverine wetland microbial responses to heavy metals.
In addition to supportive faculty, Tyler connected with staff members who made Morningside feel like home. “Char Jorgenson, Randee Small, and Lauretta Shaver truly made Morningside feel like my home away from home,” he says. “They are some of the kindest, sweetest, and most caring people I know. They were always there if I needed to talk and always gave good advice.”
Now, it’s his turn to give advice. Tyler advises Morningside students interested in biopsychology and biomedical research to not be intimidated by the numerous and varied subspecialties in the field because it means there are plenty of opportunities to discover their path. Originally from Newport News, Va. and now living and working in the Midwest, finding his path was an important part of Tyler’s time at Morningside. Looking back, he says his favorite part was how much the Morningside community cared about his success and the success of his classmates. “I never doubted that everyone at Morningside wanted me to be as successful as possible.”