Preparing for the Future

A kind gesture led to a vital connection early in Luke Annin’s collegiate career. As a freshman, Annin attended an undergraduate research forum hosted by the University of Missouri. He arrived a bit early and asked if they needed any help setting up.

“I was pretty early, so I spent a little bit of time helping set everything up,” Annin said. “I didn’t realize that I was helping the director of undergraduate research, Linda Blockus. She came up to me a little later when things began, and we had a great conversation. She connected me with my current mentor and made sure to have me tell him that she sent me.”

Annin began working with Aaron Stoker, a research professor and associate director of the Thompson Laboratory for Regenerative Orthopaedics. Orthopaedics is a medical specialty that focuses on injuries and diseases of the body’s musculoskeletal system, and the Thompson Laboratory pursues new discoveries for joint replacement and restoration.

Annin’s research focuses on the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and the knee joint. Annin, a biochemistry major who will be a junior this fall, does his research at the Missouri Orthopaedic Institute.

“I receive human tissues that would otherwise be discarded after ACL reconstruction,” Annin said. “I culture those tissues and extract the proteins from them. My primary goal is to see if there is an increase or decrease in certain levels of proteins, as well as how the tissues respond to being injured.

“It’s really interesting work. Believe me, I hate those type of injuries, but it’s fascinating to see how the reconstruction process works and what individuals have to do to recover.”

Luke Annin’s research focuses on the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and the knee joint. Annin, a biochemistry major who will be a junior this fall, does his research at the Missouri Orthopaedic Institute.

Annin said he was hoping to be able to continue his work throughout the summer but wasn’t sure where funding was going to come from. He was then connected with the Cherng Summer Scholars program. A full-time, nine-week summer research or creative scholarship program for Honors College students, the Cherng Summer Scholars program is supported by a gift from Peggy and Andrew Cherng and the Panda Charitable Foundation. Recipients receive a $7,000 award and access to a $1,000 project expense account.

“I was really worried that I wasn’t going to be able to focus on research as much this summer,” Annin said. “I was excited to learn about the scholarship and even more excited to receive the award. Being named a Scholar opened the opportunity for me to focus on research this summer.”

Annin’s research is just one way that he is preparing himself for his career after college. He is interested in pursuing a medical degree, with a focus on becoming a doctor. Annin also serves as a phlebotomist at the Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital, where he draws blood that is used for a variety of tests and procedures.

“The opportunities that I have had at Mizzou have been amazing,” Annin said. “There are numerous fields to choose from and there is cutting-edge research taking place in just about every place. I’ve been able to jump from one research opportunity to another, which is exciting.

“With my research, for example, I get to work with human tissues, which is unique. My experiences are going to transition to just about any career in the medical field or for a lot of biochemistry jobs.”

Annin chose the biochemistry degree program because of his interest in both biology and chemistry. He knew he wanted to pursue research early on, too.

“Biochemistry has been a perfect mix for me,” Annin said. “There are so many hands-on learning experiences available throughout the program. I am very much a person who learns better with that style. The faculty are incredibly knowledgeable and really show the concepts that we need to understand.”

Annin grew up in Oak Grove, Missouri, a town of less than 8,500 people. He is hoping to take the skills he learns in medical school to a rural area to help with healthcare.

“I grew up in a rural place, so I do have a desire to support medicine in similar areas,” Annin said. “But my experience with orthopaedics has piqued my interest in going that route. I have a range of interest areas that are pretty different, but I’m excited to explore.”