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Ethan Balkin takes on radiopharmaceuticals

Ethan BalkinStudent profile


Ethan Balkin


  • Born in Detroit, Michi.
  • Raised in San Diego, Calif.

Academic field

Pathobiology doctoral program

Year in school

Post-comprehensive-exam doctoral candidate


Epilepsy, dyslexia, dyscalculia, processing-speed disorder

Research areas

Targeted radiopharmaceutical therapy of B-cell Nnn-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
(Making drugs that are radioactive and seek out only tumor cells so that the patient’s “normal cells” can be spared a dose of radiation.)

Future endeavors

Continuing current research area but focused on the pediatric population at a hospital like St. Jude’s in Memphis, Tennessee.


I'm a scout master for a local Boy Scouts troop (anything outdoors is cool). I love watching college football and professional hockey too.

Greatest challenge at MU

Learning how to ask for the help that I need. My family instilled an extreme sense of self-reliance in my brother and me. Generally it's been a good thing, but the combination of that and my own pride definitely made it much more difficult for me to accept that I can’t do necessarily everything that an “able-bodied” student can (both in and out of the classroom) without asking for help.

What people should know about my disability

  • No, seizures are not funny or OK to laugh at.
  • No, a seizure is not a demon possessing my body.
  • No, we (people with epilepsy) aren’t faking it.
  • No, it’s not a symptom of “mental illness.”
  • No, I won’t hold your milk carton because you want a milkshake.
  • No, just because my brain misfires sometimes doesn’t mean I can help tune in a radio station by holding onto the antenna any better than you can.
  • No, just because I’m wearing a helmet doesn’t mean I forgot to take it off when I chained up my bike.
  • No, it’s no more dangerous for me to work with radioactivity than it is for any other student.
  • Yes, I can earn a bachelor’s degree in a highly technical field.
  • Yes, I can earn a PhD.
  • Yes, you can ask me about my disabilities!

Advice for students with similar disabilities

You are not alone, so don’t try to do it all on your own. As a community we help each other. Even when you think it couldn’t get any worse, believe me; someone is always worse off than you. Fight for what you want, ask for help, never give up, and don’t ever let anyone define your limitations for you.

Advice for new MU students

Believe it or not, the same things apply to students with disabilities and “able-bodied” students.

How the Office of Disability Services makes a difference

ODS leveled the playing field for me. It’s not that I can’t compete with my classmates; I just can’t compete on their court. I view my accommodations as providing a neutral court to play on. With my accommodations I am just as able as any other student. ODS really just gave me the chance to succeed or fail on my own merits as opposed to the merits of my disabilities.