Sweet Scientist Calvin Carlyle has found success on the field and in the lab at Oregon State

September 30, 2001

Oh great, thought Janine Trempy, a professor of microbiology at
Oregon State, as one of her students took a seat, unannounced, in
her office two years ago. This guy probably wants to argue about
his grade.

The guy was Calvin Carlyle, then a sophomore strong safety for
the Beavers. A liberal studies major, he'd just completed
Trempy's popular course, Microbiology 390: The World According to
Microbes. He hadn't dropped by to gripe about his grade. He'd
come to tell Trempy how much he'd enjoyed the course and to ask
if she had any independent research projects for him. "This was
in December 1999," says Trempy. "I told him, 'Go play in your
bowl game, or whatever it is you do, and come see me in

After making eight tackles and intercepting a pass in Oregon
State's 23-17 loss to Hawaii in the Oahu Bowl and then undergoing
arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder, Carlyle showed up in
Trempy's office in January with his arm in a sling. "I set him up
with a little project," Trempy says. "I taught him lab skills:
how to work with microscopes and the computers attached to them,
how to work with bacteria without killing himself. He was a
natural. There wasn't a single thing I threw at him that he
didn't get on the first go-round."

The same can be said for Carlyle, now a senior, on the football
field. He started 10 games for the Beavers last fall and was
second among their defensive backs in tackles with 49. This year
he is one of the top cover safeties in the Pac-10 and leads
Oregon State (1-1) with 13 tackles. "He's a little undersized for
the position," says secondary coach Al Simmons of the six-foot,
185-pound Carlyle, "but he's extremely intelligent."

Carlyle's football savvy and skills are only part of what makes
him remarkable. So smitten was he with life in the laboratory
that two summers ago he earned an undergraduate research
fellowship from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute--the first
nonscience major at Oregon State to do so. His project involved
collecting bacteria in Corvallis and testing it to see if it was
resistant to antibacterial soap. "Finding the bacteria, then
reading about it, learning about its properties and what it can
cause in humans was interesting," says Carlyle. Last summer he
earned another summer research fellowship for an on-campus
project entitled The Correlation of Toxicity, Antibiotic
Resistance and Resistance to Antibacterial Soaps in Natural
Bacterial Isolates.

Trempy doesn't take credit for sparking Carlyle's interest in
science. "He already had it," she says. Indeed, Calvin's father,
Valdo, bought him a microscope at Toys "R" Us when Calvin was 11,
and the boy spent hours in his room peering into the instrument.
"I loved it," he says.

As a football star at Dorsey High in Los Angeles he lost his
passion for science only to rediscover it in college. After
struggling academically as a freshman, he mentioned his
partiality to science to his academic adviser, and she encouraged
him to enroll in Trempy's class, which is open to nonscience
majors. Microbiology 390 is normally reserved for juniors and
seniors, but Carlyle went to Trempy "and talked his way in," she

Two years later Carlyle is a teaching assistant in that course.
(He has also taken several other biology courses.) He's also
designing and conducting experiments as part of an Oregon State
team of scientists and engineers who are, in Trempy's words,
"identifying toxin-producing bacteria that may be used in
biological warfare."

After that, staring down a five-receiver set on third down
doesn't seem quite so scary.


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