Friday, July 30, 2021

Nate Linden: Rock climber, engineer, Sloan Scholar

Nate Linden has been curious about how things work for as long as he can remember. From a young kid pretending to be a plumber, to a high school intern developing an app to monitor blood loss during surgery, he figured out that engineering and math could help explain a lot of the mechanics behind the way the world works. After earning a degree in bioengineering and a minor in applied math at the University of Washington, Linden is now a PhD student at UC San Diego, where he found it was possible to pursue both his love of biology, as well as computational science. 

“My curiosity to understand how things work has always driven my passion for learning and made a career in research an obvious decision. I decided to pursue a Ph.D. because it enables me to pursue this career and to solve problems that impact our understanding of biology and medicine,” said Linden. “I chose UC San Diego because of the unique opportunity to work with both Professor Boris Kramer and Professor Padmini Rangamani. Entering my undergrad in bioengineering, I was passionate about tackling problems in biology and medicine. However, I quickly developed a passion for math and computation as I took more mathematics and computational science classes. When I was choosing where to do my PhD I was looking for opportunities to combine my interests in biology and computational science. At UC San Diego I get to study fascinating biology and medicine by developing and using sophisticated mathematical methods.”

Linden is working with Kramer and Rangamani, both in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, to build mathematical models of intracellular signaling systems, allowing us to study how cells respond to external stimuli. He is a Sloan Scholar, a fellowship awarded to 12 incoming UC San Diego graduate students each year. The fellowship is meant to stimulate fundamental research by early-career scientists of outstanding promise. Sloan Scholars receive a $40,000 award to be used over four years.

“A major challenge in constructing these models is ensuring that the responses we predict align with the responses we observe in experiments. To address this challenge, I develop and employ computational methods that calibrate our models to accurately predict the biology observed in the lab. We can then use these models to study how changes in cellular systems lead to complications such as cancer. My work ensures that we can 'trust’ the results that we obtain by simulating the biological system.”

Linden climbing in Red Rocks, outside of Las Vegas
Outside of research, Linden is an avid rock climber who ranked nationally in youth competitions. Though he doesn’t compete at that level anymore, he said that making time to climb not only helps him feel his best physically, but mentally too.

“I have been rock climbing since I was 10 years old, and I began competing a few years after that. Since high school, I have not competed on the national level, but I still try to enter local community events when I can. I do try to go climbing outside whenever I have spare time on the weekend. It definitely took some work to figure out how to manage my time between work and going climbing. The most important thing for me is realizing that I am more productive when I take time to get away from research. Climbing has been a hugely important part of my life, and making sure that I balance my time between work and climbing helps me be more focused at work.”

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