MIT News: Brandon Ogbunu is a radical collaborator
MIT News- MIT School of Science
Brandon Ogbunu is a radical collaborator
MLK Visiting Professor tries to “maximize connection time” while studying protein evolution.
Learning has always come naturally to Brandon Ogbunu. When he was a child growing up in Manhattan, his mother, a teacher, instilled in him an appreciation for school, the sciences, and curiosity. At work, she taught mathematics, social studies, and special education. At home, she taught her son to embrace art, literature, and sports in addition to science, laying the groundwork for a well-rounded approach to learning that would inform the rest of his career.
Ogbunu grew up during the AIDS epidemic. Witnessing the devastating effects of the virus kindled an interest in disease. Although he describes himself as “a bit of an underachiever” in high school, he found his identity as a scholar during his time at Howard University. He majored in chemistry due to its reputation as the “central science” and voraciously read books on math, economics, and history to gain a more nuanced understanding of the topic. Toward the end of his undergraduate program, Ogbunu learned more about the intersection between inequality and public health and began to consider how forces like poverty can drive the spread of diseases like HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria.
After graduating from Howard in 2002, he traveled to Kenya on a Fulbright fellowship. There, while studying the chemical ecology of malaria, he became captivated by evolution. “I fell in love with it as kind of a governing viewpoint on how the natural world works,” he says.