Dr. Kim M. (Cecil) Schuster ’88 to present annual Ellie Magnuson Lecture

Dr. Kim M. (Cecil) Schuster ’88 will present the annual Ellie Magnuson Lecture in Literature and Science on Wednesday, Oct. 3, at 7:30 p.m. in Rogers Hall at Kentucky Wesleyan College. Dr. Cecil will speak on “Finding Significance: How We Make a Difference in the World.”

The Ellie Magnuson Lectures in Literature and Science honor the memory of Ellie Magnuson (1937-1989), a medical technologist with a passion for English literature, history and travel.

The following appeared in the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer on Oct. 1, 2018

Kim Cecil Schuster believes God works in mysterious ways.

Schuster, a research scientist and expert on brain chemistry whose current research is at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, is a 1988 Kentucky Wesleyan College graduate who will be the guest speaker at the annual Ellie Magnuson Lecture in Literature and Science on Wednesday in Rogers Hall at the Winchester Center. She is also an instrument of God.

The event at 7:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

Schuster’s current research at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center deals with ways in which the brain is affected from exposure to chemicals found in air pollution, flame-retardant fabrics and nonstick coatings. She is a research scientist and expert on brain chemistry.

Every person has a place in this world, Schuster said last week, and God puts them in “the right place and the right time” in order to make profound differences.

“God put me in all the situations to make all these discoveries,” Schuster said. “It’s really not me, it’s just me doing my job, my role.”

Because of her past work with the effects of lead on a developing brain, she recently appeared as an expert in a “Nova” episode about the Flint, Michigan, water crisis.

Schuster is a Philpot native who, after graduating from KWC with a degree in chemistry and math, went on to earn a master’s and a doctorate in chemistry from Vanderbilt University. Last year, KWC inducted her and three others into its Alumni Hall of Fame.

Her Magnuson Lecture is titled “Finding significance: How we can make a difference in the world.” In it, Schuster said she will combine faith, literature and science into one with a message that young people should seek their passionate careers.

“Young people started off in their career need to find their passion, and their significance in the world just doing their job, and being open to challenges that come along the way,” she said.

Those challenges may seem to throw you off course, she said, “but there may be a reason and a purpose for that.”

The Ellie Magnuson Lectures in Literature and Science honor the memory of Ellie Magnuson (1937-1989), a medical technologist with a passion for English literature, history and travel.

For more information about this event or others at Kentucky Wesleyan, visit kwc.edu.

Bobbie Hayse, bhayse@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7315, Twitter: @BobbieHayseMI

Kim (Cecil) Schuster, Ph.D.

Kentucky Wesleyan College Alumni Hall of Fame – Class of 2017
Kentucky Wesleyan College Alumni Achievement Award Recipient – 2009

Education: Ph.D., Vanderbilt University, Chemistry.
M.S., Vanderbilt University, Chemistry.
B.S., Kentucky Wesleyan College, Chemistry and Mathematics.
Fellowship: Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Magnetic Resonance Imaging.

Dr. Schuster was a member of a team that discovered Creatine Transporter Deficiency Syndrome, a genetic disorder, in 2000.

Why did you attend Wesleyan?

“I prayed to God that He would open the doors He wanted me to go through for my life, and the door to Kentucky Wesleyan swung fully open. Everyone was so friendly when I came for a visit. I was awarded a James Graham Brown scholarship to cover tuition, and that was a game changer for me.”

How did Wesleyan help prepare you for your future?

“The information content is fairly similar across colleges and universities, and the knowledge you obtain depends primarily on you and your professors. Many professors, especially Drs. W.L. Magnuson and Dan Bradshaw, offered encouragement. I had no confidence when I arrived and was undecided on a career path. I was also a first generation college student. They believed in my abilities, which provided a great foundation for my future education and career. Dr. Magnuson took students to Vanderbilt University to view the graduate program in chemistry several times, which is why I decided to further my education there.”

What did induction to the Alumni Hall of Fame mean to you?

“I was very honored. The induction reunited me with Kentucky Wesleyan. My time at the College was excellent preparation for successful entry into the world. I had to venture far from Wesleyan and Owensboro to conduct the research I’ve done. It is nice to come home and be recognized.”

From left to right: Megan Schuster, Kim Cecil Schuster, James M. (Jim) Schuster, James G. (Jimmy) Schuster, Jennifer Besman Schuster, Sarah Schuster and Andrew Schuster.

What is a typical day in the workplace for you?

“A typical day involves a combination of collecting patient or research participant data on the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner, post-processing the data myself or supervising a student doing it, time reviewing literature, writing up results for presentation or paper and writing grant applications. I am on a few committees, some of which I chair, so as I get older, more of my time is spent with administrative activities. I am asked more and more for advice and mentorship and spend more time transferring knowledge to junior faculty, especially women.”

What is Creatine Transporter Deficiency Syndrome, and what was this discovery significant?

“Our bodies make creatine and take it in from foods such as fish, red meats, cranberries and milk, and use it to regulate energy in all of our cells. The X-chromosome produces the transporter, which allows creatine to go from our blood to the brain. When the transporter is defective, especially in boys, the cells in the brain do not function properly. This can result in severe intellectual disability, developmental delay, severe language impairment and autistic-like features. I identified the first patient with this disorder using magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) of the brain during an examination. Over the past 18 years, over 150 people have been identified with the disorder internationally. Researchers in Cincinnati have created two mouse models in which the disease has been produced in mice to better understand the disorder and evaluate therapies. One promising therapy is currently being evaluated for the eventual treatment in patients.”

What is your greatest professional accomplishment?

“I was recently featured in a NOVA episode on PBS (‘Poisoned Water. The story behind the Flint, Michigan, water crisis”).

I think my greatest accomplishments professionally are yet to come. My primary research projects over the last 15 years have focused on understanding how environmental exposures affect the developing brain. While some of the work has focused on children and adults with elevated levels of lead and manganese, more recent studies focus on common exposures to air pollution, flame-retardants and non-stick coatings in typically developing populations in the Midwest. The science from these epidemiological studies of children and adults will be useful for guiding public policy in the future. Determining if some environmental regulations are at appropriate levels or if they need refinements will eventually impact our nation and the world.”

Tell us about your family.

“My parents, sister and nephews continue to live in Owensboro. My sister, Dawn (Cecil) Ralph ’04, and oldest nephew, Trevor Ralph, graduated from Wesleyan as well. My youngest nephew, Jared Ralph, is a current student.

As I mentioned, I asked God to open doors for me. While my heart’s desire was to become a wife and mother, it just never seemed to work out. My grandmother always said I was too picky. However, God had a plan, and I just had to wait until the time was perfect. In 2006, I had accepted a faculty position to begin January 2007 in San Francisco. I went on a ‘practice’ date in November 2007 with a man whose career was in finance and had four children. I thought there was no likelihood this would work out, but thought, ‘Hey, you’re 39, and it’s a nice dinner.’ Long story short, I stayed in Cincinnati, married him the following June and became a mother to four children, ages 8-16 at the time. This past summer, our oldest son graduated medical school and married and our youngest daughter graduated high school. We are about to become empty nesters, and finally have some alone time together! We envision trips to cool places, ATV trail riding and discovering the next phase of our lives.”

Learn more about her work at the Imaging Research Center at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center here.