Kyle Cottrell admits that he was not a great student at Republic High School, but at OTC he was able to re-write his academic history. Today, he is a tenure-track professor at one of the nation's premier higher education institutions.
While attending Ozarks Technical Community College, Dr. Kyle Cottrell met his future wife in his Spanish class. That is the best of the positive things that happened to Kyle while attending OTC, but it wasn’t the only good thing.
“OTC was a chance for me to rewrite my academic history,” Kyle said.
Kyle says he could have been a better high school student at Republic. He thought about enlisting in the military after high school, but since he’d fulfilled the requirement for the A+ scholarship, he came to OTC in the fall following his high school graduation.
At Republic, Kyle did well in his science courses and considered attending medical school.
“When you are a first-generation college student and good at science, the tendency is to think, ‘I should become a doctor,'” Kyle said. “I just didn’t have an awareness of careers in science.”
After starting college at OTC, a world of opportunity opened up for Kyle. His natural talent and love of science led to a job in the college’s Tutoring and Learning Center helping fellow students with chemistry, biology, and anatomy and physiology.
“Kyle knew how to empower students to find the answer,” said Jake Lewellen, the director of OTC’s Tutoring and Learning Center. “He also imparted a joy for education and a thirst for knowledge.”
As an OTC student, Kyle definitely liked school. After OTC, he transferred to Missouri State University, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in cell and molecular biology. From there, Kyle pursued a doctorate at Washington University in St. Louis (WashU).
“I fell in love with research and working at the bench,” Kyle said. “When you make a discovery, for a brief moment, you’re the only person in the world who has that new piece of knowledge.”
Kyle earned his Ph.D. in 2017 and began a five-year stint as a Postdoctoral Research Associate at WashU. His research focused on ribonucleic acids (RNAs) and the biology of cancer cells.
In January, Kyle started a new job as an assistant professor of biochemistry at Purdue University in Indiana. While he will eventually teach, Kyle’s primary responsibility is research. “The Cottrell Lab” continues the investigations Kyle began at WashU to study the RNA biology of cancer and identify new therapeutic targets.
It’s been a long journey from the 18-year-old who walked through the doors at OTC in 2006 to “Professor Cottrell.” His academic success should inspire everyone like him.
“No one cares where I went to high school or my high school GPA,” Kyle said. “I took a less direct path to a career in academia than many of my peers and, possibly, a more difficult path, but that shows perseverance.”