Student Profile: Charlotte Langner, Biochemistry Major

lab work in denmark

Last spring Charlotte Langner, Class of 2019, took the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology certification exam. It comes as no surprise to anyone who has met Langner that she passed the exam with distinction.

A Biochemistry major from Missoula, Langner has always been interested in biology, particularly the molecular aspect of it. She heard the University of Montana had an outstanding biochemistry program from her mom and dad, long-time researchers in the Wildlife Spatial Analysis Lab and Department of Geosciences at UM. Additionally, Langner was encouraged to major in biochemistry by the chair of the chemistry and biochemistry department, Chris Palmer.

Langner has excelled in her department, receiving awards every year: Freshman Chemistry Achievement Award (2016), Eugene Davis Scholarship (2016), John D. Sullivan Memorial Scholarship (2017), Dr. Richard H. Jesse Family Scholarship (2018). She also is a math minor, is an active member of the Davidson Honors College and will graduate as a Franke Global Leadership Initiative Fellow.

Passing the ASBMB exam with distinction was Langner’s goal, and she felt well-prepared by her UM courses. Langner found Bruce Bowler’s Biochemistry Research Lab course, in which they made novel mutations in proteins, to be extremely interesting and helpful for the rigorous exam. “Steve Lodmell and Klara Briknarova, who taught the Advanced Biochemistry series, are the best!” she said.

In addition to taking classes, Langner works in the Ryckman Lab as an undergraduate research assistant applying biochemistry to molecular virology research. Over the summer, she had an opportunity to travel abroad as a National Science Foundation Fellow to study the microbiome of the musk ox, conducting fieldwork in Greenland and lab work in Denmark, as well as analyzing the data for publication.

Langner enjoys sharing what she learns and has done so by serving as a peer leader for the general chemistry course for two years. As a peer leader, she attended the lectures and led a two-hour workshop each week, mentoring a small group of students through one of the most rigorous core STEM courses at UM. This experience helped her cement concepts and built a strong foundation for her to pull from during the ASBMB exam.

Langner said it helped that she took the exam while taking relevant courses. To prepare, she took a practice exam, prioritized sleep and exercise, and ate a hearty breakfast. On the day of the exam, she figured that she either knew the concepts or didn’t. She was leaning on applied knowledge she learned in and out of the classroom, not on rote memorization.

Langner appreciates that the biochemistry program at UM is accredited by ASBMB and that the program pays for its students to take the standardized exam. “Having the certification from ASBMB is validation from an external institution that I have a good grasp of the subject matter,” she said.

After graduation, Langner will spend a year in Washington, D.C., conducting research at the National Institutes of Health before pursuing a Ph.D. She enjoys biochemistry, clearly, but also has interests in ecology, statistics and computer science. “My biochemistry courses and experiences have been foundational,” she said. “I feel like I could go anywhere.”

Brandon Davis and Charlotte Langner are pictured above conducting lab work in Denmark.

fieldwork in greenland
Left to right: Charlotte Langner, Brandon Davis, and Megan Franz conduct fieldwork in Greenland