OXFORD, Miss. – Dylan Ritter, a junior majoring in biochemistry at the University of Mississippi, has been recognized by the Autism Science Foundation as one of the top five undergraduates in the nation working on groundbreaking projects in the field of autism.
Ritter, a Stamps Scholar and member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, is spending two months at Texas A&M University this summer working on an independent project to study brain development in mice with chromosome 15q11.2-13.1 duplication syndrome, a type of autism commonly known as Dup15q. It’s a condition that hits close to home for Ritter.
When Ritter was just 4, his youngest brother, Travis, was diagnosed with Dup15q. While Ritter had an interest in learning more about the condition, he never really considered the possibility of pursuing autism research. Coming to Ole Miss with his eyes set on medical school, Ritter read an article on research being done to analyze Dup15q syndrome in mice being conducted by Scott Dindot at Texas A&M.
Inspired by what he read, Ritter contacted Dindot and was offered a summer job in Dindot’s lab after his freshman year. After working with Dindot, Ritter consulted with his UM mentors, Nathan Hammer, UM associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez, dean of the Honors College, who gave him the assistance and encouragement needed to change his major.
“Dr. Hammer has helped me figure out where I wanted to go, leading me towards the biochemical track of the chemistry degree and offering any help I needed,” Ritter said. “DSG helped me become interested in UM since my first visit on campus and has helped me explore the world outside Ole Miss by encouraging me to pursue opportunities I might usually be hesitant to.”
“Dylan Ritter breaks the mold,” Sullivan-Gonzalez said. “An incredible problem has gripped his soul and he is pouring his life into its solution. Dylan demonstrates how we should live as citizen scholars in our world today.”
Ritter completes his summer at Texas A&M as one of the top undergraduate researchers in his field. The prestigious honor from the Autism Science Foundation is accompanied by a grant to help fund his research. He received grants from the Honors College to fund his first trip and said they played an important role in his return this summer.
A native of New Jersey, Ritter plans to take a break to go home and visit with friends and family before returning to UM in a few weeks for his junior year.