Brandywine Student Spotlight: Benjamin Keller

Benjamin Keller sitting next to plants in a Brandywine t-shirt

Benjamin Keller is a first-year biochemistry student at Penn State Brandywine.

Credit: The Center for Social Impact

Major: Biochemistry

Year: First

Involvement: Intern at the Center for Social Impact; member of the Sustainability Club; member of the Community Engagement Club; member of the Dungeons and Dragons Club

Brandywine: Why did you choose to attend Penn State Brandywine?

Keller: I was going through different lists of colleges that have great STEM programs, and Penn State was ranked high. Then, I was looking more specifically at Penn State’s 2+2 program, and which Commonwealth Campuses were ranked high in research and science. I saw that Brandywine was up there, so I looked into it more, and it seemed like it would be a good fit for me.

Brandywine: How did you choose your major?

Keller: I really like science in general, but I also really like biology. As I started narrowing down my interests, I chose biochemistry because basically it's a combination of biology and chemistry. It just seemed like a subject that I would be interested in. There's also a lot of interesting research potential in that field now with taking advantage of gene editing. I want to try that out later down the line.

Brandywine: What challenges have you faced at Brandywine, if any?

Keller: I mean, I guess what you would expect, right? Classes. One big one, at least for this semester, have been some of my math courses. I have some friends that I've been asking for help, and they're very helpful. I'm doing better now than what I was at the very first beginning of the semester.

The transition into Brandywine from high school was surprisingly easy. I've been told by so many people that it's going to be different and a huge adjustment. Even as someone who’s done cyber school my whole life, I haven’t had many troubles adjusting. You would suspect that I would also have troubles with things like maybe just talking to people, but I never really have. And I think that was in part because I was socialized in other ways.

Brandywine: How has Penn State Brandywine supported you? Who at Penn State Brandywine has supported you the most?

Keller: When I first came to Brandywine in August, I obviously didn't really know many people. On move-in day, I saw there was a volunteer opportunity at Tyler Arboretum to help clean up the space, and I decided to go. That’s where I met a lot of the friends I still have, and I met Vippy Yee (former Rosenberg director of the Center for Social Impact). I talked with Vippy a lot during that event. She talked to me about the Center for Social Impact, and since I was also eligible for work-study, I decided to apply for an internship there. Vippy gave me the green light to join the center on the same day. She was definitely one of my biggest supporters at Brandywine.

Brandywine: What made you interested in getting involved at the Center for Social Impact?

Keller: The volunteer opportunity at Tyler Arboretum made me interested in getting involved at the center, but I also wanted to attempt to make an impact on society.

Brandywine: What are you currently working on at the center?

Keller: One of my goals right now is to find a way to reduce food waste either through the cafeteria, or just in general. I'm going to ask people who are directly related to that, whether it be managers or maybe try to get into communication with people in board positions that would matter.

Other than that, I'm usually making sure that the plants in the center are watered and making sure that I'm setting up events. I’ve helped set up lunch and learns in the past, and I’ve also helped with different TEDx Circles. I also work on checking temperatures of our fridges and things for the food pantry.

Brandywine: What are some projects and events you’ve taken part in at the center? Which event stood out to you the most and why?

Keller: I’ve taken part in almost every event and project this school year, but one I was more directly related in was very recent. It was the TEDx Circle. For the TEDx Circle I had a large part in, another student and I discussed quality education.

My favorite event I participated in was probably the one that I first got involved in: the clean-up at Tyler Arboretum. It’s my favorite event because it was the moment I got really involved at not only the center but also in the community.

Brandywine: With all your extracurricular activities, how have they impacted your time on campus?

Keller: All the events I participate in, whether it’s volunteering, going to the Surrey Senior Center in Media or TEDx Circles, are during common hour, which is perfect. I never really have to worry about missing any of my classes, and I do all my homework when my last class is over. Having all events during common hour makes it so I never have a scheduling conflict.

Brandywine: What has been the most valuable lesson you’ve learned at Brandywine?

Keller: I learned two lessons during my time here: time management and living independently. My mother was very diligent in preparing me for living on my own, like cleaning up after myself and taking care of myself. Time management has been a really important skill to learn, especially because I have ADHD. I’ve been working really hard at not forgetting to do tasks and keeping myself focused.