Love Looms Large in the Lab
Sweethearts share passion for science and each other
Not every experiment turns out exactly as planned. In fact, most don’t. But sometimes things come together and produce the ideal outcome. Other times, after a sequence of trial and error, an altogether unexpected result emerges.
Both scenarios seem to apply to the “experiment” between Brittany Begres, a recent graduate of The College of Wooster where she earned a degree in biochemistry and molecular biology, and her mentor, Jason Van Houten, also a biochemistry and molecular biology major who graduated two years earlier.
Things started innocently enough in the fall of 2010 when Van Houten was assigned to teach Begres how to use an Isothermal Titration Calorimeter (ITC), an instrument that measures enzyme rates and binding energies. After one semester of instruction, it wasn’t just the binding energies of the enzymes that needed measuring. Van Houten and Begres had bonded — first scientifically, then romantically — and the temperature in the lab started to rise.
On a cold Saturday morning in mid-January of 2011, the two gathered in the ITC lab, a windowless room in the Severance Chemistry Building. Begres insists that there was no hanky-panky that day, but after 15 hours together, they finally embarked on what would be their first date — dinner at Mom’s Truck Stop (the campus snack shop) and a movie that wouldn’t require much of an intellectual investment — “Shrek.”
Van Houten and Begres each conducted research on different aspects of phosphagen kinases (an enzyme family that plays a key role in cellular energy metabolism) for their Senior Independent Study project (Wooster’s nationally acclaimed undergraduate research experience). The two worked under the direction of their unwitting matchmaker and adviser, Dean Fraga, professor of biology and biochemistry and molecular biology at Wooster.
The experiment concluded on June 21 when Van Houten proposed to Begres at her family’s cottage on Houghton Lake, Mich. This fall, the two will continue their studies at Wayne State University in Michigan; Van Houten in a master’s program in basic medical sciences and Begres in medical school. On Dec. 21, the two will be married…and a new phase of the experiment will begin.