Burton gives Missouri S&T Ph.D. grads a cheat sheet for the journey ahead

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On May 9, 2022

Dr. Casey Burton, director of medical research at Phelps Health and a Missouri S&T chemistry graduate, spoke during Missouri S&T’s Ph.D. commencement ceremony. Photo by Michael Pierce, Missouri S&T

Never stop asking questions, build your network and seek out new opportunities. These are the three “tokens of wisdom” Dr. Casey Burton shared with doctoral graduates during Missouri University of Science and Technology’s Ph.D. commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 7.

Burton, director of medical research at Phelps Health and an adjunct professor of chemistry at Missouri S&T, earned a bachelor’s degree and a Ph.D. in chemistry from S&T in 2013 and 2017, respectively. Burton was the commencement speaker during a ceremony for S&T graduates earning doctoral degrees.

“You are here today because of your demonstrated ability to learn, to persevere, and most importantly, your ability to create and share new knowledge,” Burton said. “This last ability both sets you apart and comes with great responsibility.”

While an undergraduate student at S&T, Burton received two fellowships from the National Science Foundation to advance his work on developing urinary biomarkers for early cancer detection. He also received the President’s Student Entrepreneur of the Year Award for his role in developing a digital publishing company.

His research focuses on developing and applying advanced analytical techniques for small molecule analysis to health care diagnostics, including early cancer detection and traumatic brain injury. His work has led to multiple international collaborations, clinical trials, and business ventures to develop health care technology. His efforts have been widely featured in popular media and scientific literature, with over 30 peer-reviewed journal publications.

Burton offered the graduates three tokens of wisdom for their journey ahead. The first was “never stop asking questions.”

“It takes skills, and sometimes courage, to ask good questions, and every one of you here today have shown your ability to ask profound and insightful questions,” he said. “Hold onto that ability. Do not let it fade.”

In his second token of wisdom, Burton encouraged the graduates to build networks.

“Every one of you here today have unique skills to transform the world, but you cannot do it alone. For that, you are in luck,” Burton said. “In addition to the connections you have already forged in your time here at Missouri S&T, you are now part of a vast and rich network of fellow alumni who offer you a wealth of knowledge and experience. Take every opportunity to meet someone new, for you never know what you may achieve together.

“Opportunity lies all around us, but it takes action and initiative to find it, let alone pursue it,” Burton told the graduates regarding his final token of wisdom – seek out new opportunities.

“Every one of you here today sought the opportunity to advance your research through hard work, creativity, and dedication,” Burton said. “Continue to train your ability to identify new opportunities, even if you don’t pursue every opportunity identified. Your ability to seek new opportunities will ultimately position you to realize your ambitions and highest achievements.”Burton joined Phelps Health in 2017 to lead the hospital’s newly created research program with an expanding role in legislative affairs and advocacy. He was honored with the Missouri S&T Distinguished Young Alumni Award in 2020.

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