Dunn Story

Although senior John Dunn had several family connections to Hanover College, the school was “not on my radar,” he said, until a couple of things happened.

Overnight visits to Hanover when he was a student at Waggener High School in Louisville, Ky., introduced him to the beauty of the Indiana campus and to the excellence of the science classes that eventually would make up his future as a biology major. Unlike other schools he checked out, he said, the anatomy lab at Hanover was open to undergraduates, offering a “huge benefit” to work with cadavers. And the biology professor whose class he previewed was completely engaged with the material and the students. Dunn was impressed.

When Dunn also learned about Hanover grads’ high rate of acceptance to medical or graduate school, it was a done deal.

Make that a Dunn deal:

In May he will join his parents, Michael Dunn ’78 and Donna Metz-Dunn ’81, as a Hanover graduate. In August, he starts grad school in molecular and cellular biology at the University of Iowa.

Dunn had considered following his mother, a physician, into medicine, but he formed a stronger connection with research.

As a member of the inaugural class of Summer Research Fellows, Dunn worked on a craniofacial development project with zebrafish. He is examining a role for pax2a in craniofacial development within zebrafish embryos because of what it might mean to and for people. Dunn said pax2a is “nearly identical” to the human gene, pax2, which impacts proper human eye development.

The idea of studying genes also was spurred by a sister who has a mild learning disability. He said he wondered, when he was younger, why his doctor-mother couldn’t “fix” his sister’s problem, but as he grew older he realized “Mom can’t.” A scientist, though, one who understood genes and information, might be able to design an intervention for any number of issues, including his sister’s.

That future calls, even as he packs more experiences into his almost-concluded senior year.

Given his studies, the 22-year-old Benjamin Templeton Scholar has a “highly regimented schedule,” but his college life is more than books and beakers. Among his many involvements, he is a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity, a resident assistant and treasurer of Earthwide Outreach by Students. In the latter organization, the student of human building blocks – genes – engaged in a more literal example of that: He and other students visited Guatemala earlier this year to lay the foundation for a geriatric center’s new kitchen.