KOKOMO, Ind. – For the last three years, Ross Filbrun has been laser-focused on one target— acceptance into the Indiana University School of Medicine.
He’s prepared for this goal by working on a degree in biological and physical sciences at IU Kokomo, and also performed research synthesizing compounds to be used as chemotherapy agents with Mohammad Hossain, assistant professor of organic chemistry.
In September, his efforts paid off after being admitted to the school’s Lafayette campus — his first choice.
“This is probably my biggest accomplishment I’ve done to date,” Filbrun, of Flora, said. “It’s like looking back on a job, like mowing the yard. You look back and say, ‘Wow, I did something today.’ It’s that same feeling, but much bigger. Think times 100.”
One of the most influential parts of his student experience has been one-on-one research with Hossain, starting in summer 2021. Filbrun asked about such opportunities after taking what ended up being his favorite class – organic chemistry.
His first project was doing a bioassay, or measuring concentration or potency of a substance by its effect on living cells or tissues, on a series of compounds for antibacterial activity. During the fall semester, he began his current project, synthesizing novel organic compounds as candidates to be anticancer agents.
“It feels almost surreal,” Filbrun said. “It’s been an interesting experience, a mind-opening experience, to say I created a new molecule that hasn’t been seen before. I found that awesome.”
Hossain said when Filbrun completes the synthesis, all the compounds will be sent to the University of Saskatchewan in Canada for biological evaluation.
“Ross has the ideal set of skills that we would wish for any student,” said Hossain. “He is a very hardworking and dedicated student who is always eager to gain whatever practical experiences he possibly can. He is a careful and creative thinker, with an eye for details and a devotion to logic.”
Filbrun noted that his interest in medicine began in an unlikely place — under the hood of a car.
“I was pretty interested in working on cars and doing mechanical work,” he said, especially after he talked about the medical field with a physician, and began drawing correlations between mechanical work and surgery. An opportunity to job shadow a surgeon confirmed to him that medicine was his future.
After being homeschooled for high school, he had taken time away to work, but knew after two years of construction that he wanted to go to college. Filbrun began at Ivy Tech Community College to gain experience and confidence, before transferring to IU Kokomo.
In addition to being a research assistant, he participated in the STEPS program, which the campus offers in collaboration with the North Central Indiana Health Education Center. It provides interview practice, preparation for admission to professional programs like medical, dental, and veterinary school, and help with studying for entrance exams.
His experiences on campus have prepared him both academically and personally for the challenge ahead.
“Medical school, and then medical practice afterwards, is about more than just classes,” he said. “Developing as a person is a very important aspect of life. I have grown a lot in the last two years. Just having the experience with a lot of different people, and having a better understanding of them, and being able to learn from their experience, is valuable. Everyone has a different view on life, and it’s important to be understanding of their viewpoint. That’s something IU Kokomo has helped me with.”