To say Seth Bloom has varied interests would be a bit of an understatement.
On any given afternoon, you might find him researching influenza viruses in a laboratory at the School of Medicine.
Or he might be making reports about alleged racial profiling by St. Louis police officers, or he might be meeting with clergy and politicians about a civilian oversight board for the Police Department.
One thing is for sure: Whatever Bloom is doing receives his attention and passion.
Bloom, a member of Phi Beta Kappa, will graduate summa cum laude today with an undergraduate honors degree in biology, along with a minor in African and Afro-American Studies, both in Arts & Sciences.
He spent much of the past year working at the medical school in the lab of Andrew Pekosz, Ph.D., assistant professor of molecular biology, researching influenza viruses. Bloom began his association with Pekosz after being awarded a Howard Hughes Medical Institute undergraduate research scholarship for summer 2003.
“I’ve been working with the M1 matrix protein in influenza,” Bloom said. “The M1 matrix protein helps virus assembly. I’ve been making some mutations in the M1 protein and trying to determine if they have an effect on virus assembly and growth.”
His professors have been impressed with his work.
“Seth has that rare combination of a strong intellect, incredible work ethic and pleasant personality that makes it a joy to work with him,” Pekosz said. “Within days of starting, he was contributing not only experimental data, but intellectual input on experimental design and future research directions for his projects.”
This fall, Bloom will continue his studies at WUSTL and pursue an M.D./Ph.D. in microbiology and infectious diseases at the School of Medicine. He hopes to apply his research in the area of public health.
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“Working in the lab has been wonderful,” Bloom said. “I was fortunate enough to present my research at the Howard Hughes Symposium this past September and was awarded a travel grant to present at the American Center for Virology conference in Montreal in July.”
As if all that would not keep him busy enough, he’s become very involved, out of “my own curiosity,” in researching alleged racial profiling by St. Louis City Police. Bloom started talking with local community activists to find out what had been done to address the issue in St. Louis.
He became involved in an effort to create a civilian oversight board for the St. Louis Police Department.
“It would be an independent civilian board with the power to hear citizen complaints and investigate them,” Bloom said. “The board would then publicize their findings and make recommendations on discipline to the chief of police.”
Currently, the internal affairs department serves as police watchdog.
While he waits for the city’s Board of Aldermen to consider the oversight-board proposal, Bloom has continued his racial-profiling research and plans to write an academic paper on his findings.
“Seth is special in that he sees the development of academic skills and the acquisition of knowledge in a variety of fields as necessary to the way that he wants to live in the world,” said Leslie Brown, Ph.D., professor of African and Afro-American Studies and of history in Arts & Sciences. “He has truly used the University as a way to explore the world beyond the one he knew when he got here.”
In his “spare” time, Bloom does volunteer mentoring at Clark Elementary School. He also enjoys jogging and hiking and considers himself to be an “information sponge,” soaking up knowledge whenever he can.
He hails from Corvallis, Mont., and has an older brother who is a graduate student in chemistry at California Institute of Technology. Bloom’s father is a virologist with the National Institutes of Health, and his mother is chair of the local school board.
“My family is a huge inspiration for me,” Bloom said.
He’s very happy that he chose to attend the University.
“The great thing about a place like this is that you can find so many things to do,” Bloom said. “I feel like I’ve developed in many ways since I’ve been here. I’ve become active in a lot of things, and I’ve been able to have a very diverse set of interests.”