Travel tip: Your lucky number

If you haven’t updated your luggage ID tags in several years, make sure you include your most up-to-date cell phone number. If you use a business card and it doesn’t include your cell, add it. Then if someone grabs the wrong suitcase he or she can call you immediately – maybe while you are still at the airport.

Message from Shellie: Traveling and Weight Gain Go Hand in Hand

It’s that time of year again when we are all making New Year’s resolutions. The same one hits my list each year: lose weight. If I went back and added how much weight I have lost collectively through the years, I am sure it would add up to an entire whole person. We all have excuses for why we tend to gain weight: stress, lifestyle, and the big one: traveling. Maybe others are more disciplined than I am when it comes to eating the right foods. I love to eat. I love the taste of food and was always brought up to not leave any food on my plate (I am not sure what cleaning my plate did for the starving kids of Africa, but I did it anyway.) I believe when you are in a place away from home, especially when it is international, it is always best to eat “local.” I have never understood why you would eat at a fast food restaurant chain when you can enjoy that delicacy at home. I have tried some wonderful foods across the world, and most of the time they are healthier and fresher than what I make at home.

Winter is when I usually do most of my traveling. This does not fit well into my weight loss plan as I am trying to get back into my “skinny” pants that I threw in the corner of my closet during the holidays. Now I am faced with yet another will-power challenge as I travel. I realize I don’t have to eat like a saint during my entire trip, but there are a few rules I would like to share.

  1. Eat before going to the airport. Airport food is never very good, and since there isn’t food on the planes anymore (domestic) I usually pack some healthy snacks: bananas, granola bars, etc.
  2. Bring exercise clothes. If you have a fitness center in the hotel or ship, use it. It will help make up for the desserts you couldn’t pass up. If nothing else, bring good walking shoes so you can enjoy the local scenery.
  3. Do stuff. Relaxing on the beach is awesome, but don’t spend all your time lounging around. There are usually fun activities in any vacation setting that can be surprisingly effective at burning calories. Even if you rent a jet ski for an hour, let me know how your muscles feel the next day.
  4. Don’t be like me. You don’t have to finish all the food on your plate. Eat half your sandwich, split it with a travel partner, or order meals off the appetizer menu. If you have willpower, skip the dessert. I promise you won’t starve if you don’t eat it.
  5. Simple deletions: order grilled, not fried. Hold the mayo, take the mustard. Say no to the cheese. Ask for dressing on the side. Pass on the fries.
  6. Watch your drinking. This is hard when some vacations start with drinks in the morning. Monitor yourself by spacing out your drinks and making sure you are getting plenty of water. Always drink lots of (bottled) water. If you must drink, use diet colas and diet fruit juices with your mixed drinks. Drink light beer.  Add ice to your white wine to make it go further. Opt for big flavor juices like pomegranate, which just has 18 calories per ounce.

Vacations are for enjoyment, but you don’t need to gain weight in the process. It is much easier to bring home souvenirs than the extra luggage around your waist.

Bon Appetit,


Shellie Andersen ’88, Director of Alumni Travel
Iowa State University Alumni Association

How to pack a suitcase for airline travel

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) offers a complete guide to which items passengers can pack in carry-on and checked luggage. These guidelines offer passengers step-by-step instructions on how to pack liquids, large items, and potentially dangerous items when preparing for a domestic or international flight. To minimize delays, pack luggage per the TSA’s directions.

  • STEP 1: Roll clothes and place in rows along the length of your suitcase. TSA officials can more quickly inspect the content of your suitcase if clothes are ordered in rows. This packing technique also offers an effective way to maximize space.  And it reduces wrinkles!
  • STEP 2: Pack liquids, gels and aerosols that exceed a total volume amount of 3.4 oz. in your checked luggage. This includes bottles of lotion, perfume and tubes of toothpaste. According to the TSA, medications, as well as liquids, gels and aerosols with a total volume amount of 3.4 oz. (or less) may be stored in a quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag and carried on board a plane. All liquids must be declared and inspected.
  • STEP 3: Pack footwear on top of other contents in your luggage. TSA officials may want to check your footwear, so keep these items on top for easy inspection.
  • STEP 4: Spread heavy items such as books around in your luggage instead of in piles in one location.
  • STEP 5: Pack prohibited items including tools, sports equipment and sharp objects in your checked luggage. The Transportation Security Authority restricts box cutters, scissors, knives (excluding plastic or butter knives) and other items from carry-on baggage. This rule is true for domestic or international travel.

For more travel information go to

Ring in the new year


Celebrate the New Year by giving your resume a makeover. When was the last time you had your resume reviewed? When was the last time you even looked at your resume? Whether you are in the midst of a job search or it’s just been awhile since you have updated your resume, now is a great time to get your resume reviewed…for free! The ISU Alumni Association has partnered with the Cyclone Chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management to provide resume critiquing to ISU alumni. Upload your resume at Within two weeks you should receive a response back from the Human Resources resume critiquing expert.

LinkedIn: Did you know?

Do you have a LinkedIn profile? Do you use it very often? If not, you might not be aware of the LinkedIn Alumni search feature. Here is a quick guide of how you can access it and use this feature to aid in your job search.

Step 1:
After logging in to your LinkedIn account, go to the Contacts menu. As you move your cursor over Contacts, a drop down menu will appear. “Iowa State University” should appear at the bottom of your menu. Click on this. (You will need to have your ISU degree information included in your LinkedIn profile for this to appear. Also, if you hold degrees from multiple institutions and have them all listed on your profile, all of those institutions should appear in the drop down menu.)


Step 2:
Using the available search features, you can find Cyclones (who have a LinkedIn profile) that graduated or attended ISU during a specific set of years.


Step 3:
You can also narrow your search by a geographic region (Des Moines was used as the example below), where they work, and what they do. After making your selections, LinkedIn will show a list of ISU alumni who fit your criteria.


Planet Hoops

How a man with three countries is seeing the world through basketball

Melvin Ejim is known by American sportswriters: He’s a star forward on the buzzworthy Iowa State men’s basketball team who once led his team to the American Prep School championships and is now a prime candidate for academic All-America honors. He’s lived in three U.S. states and visited countless others.

But this American superstar is Canadian. And, actually, Nigerian as well.

“Both my parents are Nigerian — my entire family is,” Ejim says. “I’ve always identified myself as Nigerian; it’s just something my parents instilled in me. We [follow] a lot of the customs; we have a lot of the clothing; and we celebrate a lot sportsof the traditions when I’m at home.”

Home for Ejim is Toronto, Ontario — where he was born and raised and where his mother still lives with his brothers and sisters. Growing up in Canada and identifying as Nigerian, Ejim was most heavily exposed to the sports of soccer and hockey (he participated in everything he could, he says – from soccer to volleyball to cross country and track). But when Ejim was in eighth grade, his uncle took a look at the youngster’s rapidly stretching physique and suggested he try another sport: basketball.

“I was in the ninth grade when I joined my first AAU team, so I was kind of a late bloomer,” Ejim says. “My mom never really thought that I was any good at basketball, and it was also hard financially for her — at the time she had four boys and was a single mother. So my uncle took it upon himself to take on the financial part of it.”

Thanks to Ejim’s uncle and some youth basketball programs in Canada, the teen soon found himself playing in a tournament in Washington, D.C., where he was discovered by area prep school coaches and wooed to the States for what would turn out to be a highly successful career at New Hampshire’s Brewster Academy. He was named the 2010 New Hampshire Gatorade Player of the Year and was recruited by college programs across the U.S. – including the school where fellow Brewster alum Craig Brackins had found success: Iowa State.

“I had developed a relationship with [assistant coach] T.J. [Otzelberger]; I developed a relationship with Craig, and when I came down here on my official visit I knew this was a place I wanted to be.”

Ejim finished his sophomore season last year as one of ISU’s top players,
earning honorable mention all-Big 12 accolades and ranking seventh in the league in rebounding. A passionate history major and Phi Kappa Phi inductee with dreams of attending law school, he was a first-team academic all-conference pick who finished the season excited about his future in Ames, both on and off the court.

But there was always Nigeria.

It was a friend he knew from Canada, actually, who contacted him last summer with a simple question: “Have you ever thought about playing on the Nigerian National Team?”

The answer was no, he hadn’t, but Ejim was instantly intrigued. As a first-generation Canadian born to Nigerian parents, Ejim qualified to play for the team. He’d only been to the country once – when he was five years old. But he’d always identified with his parents’ homeland and now he was facing a chance to be an Olympian. His friend made the call to the Nigerian coach. Ejim would get a tryout.

The “tryout” actually lasted most of the summer. Players practiced and traveled with the team and were slowly cut in the lead-up to the London Games. Ejim was the youngest player on the veteran squad, which included several NBA players, but he consistently impressed the coaches. Ejim traveled with the team to China for a tournament and played in a game against the English National Team in Houston. Just weeks before the Olympics, in which the Nigerians would end up making a surprising Cinderella run, Ejim was cut.

Sure, he would have loved to play in the Olympics. But Ejim says the experience of traveling and learning international basketball was priceless. And the Nigerian coaches say they definitely have their eye on him for 2016.

“It was great,” Ejim says. “It was a whole new outlook on basketball for me — but one that can be translated to the collegiate level. Coach Hoiberg was all for it and definitely encouraged me to go out and learn from these guys.”

As for Ejim’s once-skeptical mom, who has yet to travel to Ames to see her son play for ISU in person, she’s starting to understand that her son has a bit of a talent for the game.

“The first time she saw us [Iowa State] play on TV, she was in awe,” Ejim said.

And then of course there was this summer, when Ejim represented her country on the hardcourt. “She has a full house now that she has six kids and my grandparents, but she’s definitely made it apparent to me that she’s going to try her hardest to get out here.”

And she might just find herself watching a future Olympian in action – a native son of which three countries can be proud.

About this story | By Kate Bruns, associate editor of VISIONS. Originally published in the winter 2013 issue.

Understanding biomolecules

The initiative in Biomolecular Structure will enable Iowa State to become a leader in this highly specialized field


Understanding the most elemental functions of cells holds the promise for making some of the greatest leaps forward in science – with the potential for new discoveries across all areas of human, plant, and animal life. And now, thanks to a $7.5 million commitment by the Muscatine, Iowa-based Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust, Iowa State University is poised to lead this research.

The Initiative in Biomolecular Structure in the newly named Roy J. Carver Department of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology (BBMB) will enable Iowa State to build its research focus in the proteins and protein complexes integral to cellular and physiological processes. The trust’s gift provides for hiring topflight new faculty and attracting the very best graduate students nationally and abroad, and for acquiring some of the most cutting-edge laboratory instrumentation used in this area of study.

According to Amy Andreotti, director of the initiative, and department chair Guru Rao – both of whom hold the title of Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust Professor in Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology – the initiative creates an exciting framework for identifying new solutions to challenges in areas ranging from medical and pharmaceutical science, to plant and animal health and insect control, to food and nutrition, to bioenergy and biomaterials.

Why is understanding the structure and function of biomolecules – and particularly proteins – important?
Amy Andreotti:
Every form of life is made up of biological molecules carrying out very specific functions within cells. They are like machines, working together to keep cells in living organisms – human, animal, or plant – healthy. At the next level down are the parts within the machines: biomolecules with specific shapes and chemical capabilities that enable them to perform all the cellular functions over the course of an organism’s lifetime – fighting off infections, creating energy, you name it.

Guru Rao: We’re interested in proteins because they do almost all of the work in the cell. And when we find errors in individual genes, they’re ultimately reflected in a protein – an alteration to its shape leading to a malfunction in the protein doing its job. So knowing the structure of the protein gives us a good handle on how to treat a particular property associated with it. For instance, if a disease is caused by a malfunctioning protein, we can tailor a therapy to specifically target the individual protein, potentially controlling that disease state.

How will the Carver Trust’s gift help advance this research?
AA: Biomolecular research is already occurring across the campus. [BBMB is co-administered by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.] The Initiative in Biomolecular Structure will enable Iowa State to hone its expertise in structural biology from the aspect of protein structure and function, and to expand the university’s capabilities as we bring in new faculty with new expertise in new technologies.

GR: The department already has an outstanding culture and track record for research, and we expect that only to grow through this initiative. Most BBMB faculty – many who have received three-year seed grants from the Carver Trust – are successfully competing for funding from governmental sources such as the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation.

AA: And with great faculty come great students. The initiative gives us the ability to recruit the best graduate students with an interest in biochemistry and specifically in structural biology. We’ve also had a strong undergraduate research experience in our laboratories for years, and more than three quarters of our graduates go on to graduate school or medical school. The quality of these students, too, just adds to the reputation of the program.

GR: The culture of excellence we’ve built in BBMB will only continue to rise. We have every reason to anticipate that in the next five to 10 years Iowa State will be the destination for structural biology education and research among leading programs around the country.

The importance of graduate students
Graduate students are essential to the research enterprise at Iowa State University. Experiences in the laboratories across campus foster students’ originality, imagination, judgment, and patience – the traits of an independent scholar. Private support is essential to recruit the graduate students on whom Iowa State depends to assist with teaching and collaborate with faculty to generate new knowledge. Fellowships, scholarships, and other funds for graduate students do more than impact their education while at Iowa State. These students become not only renowned scientists but also entrepreneurs, academics, policymakers, and leaders in their respective fields. Their discoveries and knowledge have incalculable potential for transforming the lives of thousands of people.

Learn more about how you can move Iowa State graduate students forward at

About this story | Originally published in the winter 2013 issue of VISIONS magazine.

Steven Leath: “We must be bold.”


After eight months of planning – and with the involvement of nearly 1,000 individuals – Steven Leath was officially installed as Iowa State University’s 15th president on Friday, Sept. 14.

The ceremony, held in Stephens Auditorium, began with a special “Cyclone Fanfare” arranged by director of bands Michael Golemo. The academic procession included not just robed representatives of colleges and universities around the nation, learned societies and professional organizations, and other faculty and staff– but also 500 red-T-shirt-clad representatives of the ISU student body.

It was quite a scene.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and both of Iowa’s senators, Tom Harkin (’62 government) and Charles Grassley, were on hand for the formal installation of President Leath by Craig Lang (’73 dairy science), Iowa Board of Regents president. Leath was introduced by longtime friend and mentor Erskine Bowles, president emeritus of the University of North Carolina system.

Leath’s presidential installation address focused on two primary areas: providing a high-quality educational experience for students and expanding and strengthening university partnerships.

“We must be accessible,” Leath told the crowd. “And being accessible means being affordable.” He then announced a four-part plan that would hold down costs, provide better financial counseling for students and their families, be more creative in helping students finding lower-cost paths to four-year degrees, and maximize revenue streams other than tuition to support academic programs.

“Starting now, starting today, and over the next five years, we pledge to raise an additional 150 million dollars for student support. Iowa State’s great alumni and friends will have another opportunity to come through for this university, and our students will love this initiative as it builds into a full-fledged campaign in the next few years.”

About his second major focus, Leath said, “I want Iowa State to be known as the ‘partnership university.’ More than that, I want to be known as the university
that gets it right when it comes to partnering with others. One size does not fit all.”

His objectives include leveraging the strengths of Iowa State Extension and Outreach and the Office of Research and Economic Development as well as significantly expanding the Iowa State Research Park.

In his installation address, Leath also announced initiatives to:

  • Make available up to $1.5 million per year for three years for interdisciplinary projects selected to encourage and expand research efforts.
  • Expand the number of graduate students to support research
  • Enhance campus beautification, including the Iowa State Center grounds, and further invest in University Museums and Reiman Gardens
  • Promote diversity on campus by supporting several recommendations proposed by the University Committee on Women and other key groups, and also by partnering with King and Moulton Elementary Schools in Des Moines to help increase the number of lower-income and minority students enrolling at Iowa State


“I have been here at Iowa State the last two days, and I cannot believe you guys are paying Steve Leath to take this job. This place is great! I mean, wow….you have a campus that’s as beautiful as any I have ever seen. You have a student body who is really smart and really gets it…. You’ve got an undefeated football team…. But best of all you’ve got a sky that’s Carolina blue, and so I am thrilled to be here.”

“I didn’t come here just to introduce a former colleague. I came here to introduce a man I care about, and care about deeply, a genuine friend, a man who is without question a true and dedicated leader. In Dr. Steven Leath, I guarantee you, you have a winner. You have a winner, you have a doer, you have a difference maker, a leader — a leader who will truly change tomorrow for thousands of young people in this great state…. Steve Leath was destined, truly destined, to be president of a great, leading land-grant university and, by golly, he got to go to the first land-grant university and, probably, the best. Iowa State, you have a proven leader in Steve Leath. There is no else to whom I’d rather trust the future of my children, my university, or my state than Dr. Steve Leath.”

– Erskine Bowles, in his Sept. 14 introduction of President Steven Leath.
Bowles is president emeritus of the University of North Carolina system.
He was also White House chief of staff under President Bill Clinton.

‘From Great to Greater’
An excerpt from President Steven Leath’s Installation Address
“My vision for Iowa State University is still a work in progress. I hope it continues to be, because I want to be a listening president. I want to constantly get input. But I can tell you the vision that is forming: It’s not small. It’s big. It’s innovative. And I have very high expectations for the people of Iowa State and for this great university! The great success of Iowa State over the past 154 years has resulted from bold leadership. And now we must be bolder, and we must think bigger in terms of our goals and impact, if we are going to drive Iowa State from great …to greater …at a time when our state really needs us.

“First, let us all do everything we can to leave this university better than we found it. Second, take every opportunity to look beyond your own area to see how what you do impacts the bigger picture that is Iowa State University and this great state of Iowa. Third, look at every task as an opportunity to be innovative, be interdisciplinary, and to create partnerships. And fourth, be bold. Innovation, boldness, and partnerships created these revolutionary land-grant institutions and made them the great institutions they are today. These same characteristics will carry us forward as we take Iowa State University from great…to greater.”

‘A Joyful Feel’
Library Dean Olivia Madison, chair of the Installation Planning Committee, can’t decide whether to call the number of people involved with Steven Leath’s presidential installation an army or a battalion.

installation_madison“So many people made it happen!” she says. “There was an incredible array of talent and dedication and the belief in the historical significance of this event. To have something like this go so smoothly meant many people looked after it.”

Madison needn’t be so humble. Her leadership of the committee came from many years of experience. She not only chaired the last installation (for President Gregory Geoffroy), she also chaired the committee for the installation of his predecessor, Martin Jischke.

Though Madison says the three ceremonies were far more similar than different, two special elements of this event stand out to her: the student delegation (500 students representing every possible element of the campus, an idea she credits to Tom Hill, senior vice president for student affairs) and the Cyclone Fanfare arranged by director of bands Michael Golemo. And one more thing: the number of friends and colleagues from Leath’s past who made the trip to Ames to be a part of his special day.

“It was like a wedding,” she says. “It had such a joyful feel.”


By the numbers

  • 8 members of the Installation Planning Committee
  • 38 platform party officials at the installation ceremony
  • 500 student representatives at the ceremony
  • XV: The number on the back of the student representatives’
    T-shirts, designating President Leath as the 15th president of
    Iowa State University — and Leath’s personalized license plate
  • 45 universities represented by delegates at the ceremony
  • 144 student musicians performed in the installation ceremony
    (64 in the ISU Wind Ensemble; 80 Iowa State Singers)
  • 24 hours of rehearsal required for the student music groups
  • 780 pork burgers served on central campus at the student
    celebration picnic on “installation eve”
  • 3 desserts served at the presidential installation luncheon at the Knoll (bittersweet chocolate tiramisu with orange crème anglaise, “Baked Alaska” pumpkin pie, and fresh fall pears)


ISU President Steven Leath with his wife, Janet, and his parents, Kenneth and Marie.

Lost in translation
President Leath is known for a number of, well, “Leath-isms.”

When he says: “That dog won’t hunt.”
He means: “Just forget about it.”

When he says: “You don’t buy a good dog and then do your own barking.”
He means: “Hire good people and let them do their jobs.”

More Presidential Installation Online

  • Installation history: Installations are a celebratory tradition that have marked presidential beginnings at Iowa State since 1896 when Adonijah Welch formally took the helm. Learn about the installations of former ISU presidents.
  • Ceremonial trappings: The university mace, robe, and chain of office
  • Read President Leath’s full installation address
  • Listen to an original Cyclone Fanfare
  • Watch a video of the installation ceremony and see more photos

About this Story | By Carole Gieseke, editor of VISIONS. Originally published in the winter 2013 issue.

Acting Bug: What makes Brendan Dunphy tick?


Brendan Dunphy is an actor. And an entomologist. And a producer of eclectic Irish plays. People keep telling him to move to Hollywood, but he stays stubbornly rooted in Iowa. So what makes Brendan Dunphy tick?

Brendan Dunphy is not a household name. Yet.

But the 29-year-old is already well known in two very diverse circles: Des Moines theatre-goers and scientists who follow the mosquito and tick populations in the Midwest.

If that sounds crazy, it’s not. Dunphy, a 2007 ISU graduate with a degree in animal ecology, entomology, and zoology, is a research associate in Iowa State’s Medical Entomology Laboratory. You might say being an entomologist is his day job. He runs the university insectary and oversees the surveillance program of mosquitoes and ticks in Iowa. He even documented the arrival and establishment of an exotic mosquito species in the state: Aedes japonicas.

Dunphy’s alter-ego is an actor and producer of both stage and film. You may have seen him in Iowa State’s “Choose Your Adventure” television commercials. He’s the long-haired narrator with the friendly smile.

On the professional stage, he’s played characters ranging from deranged killers and a psycho hotel clerk to a priest and a crippled Irish boy. He may be best known locally for his dogged persistence in producing the complete series of Irish playwright Martin McDonagh’s stage plays in a central Iowa market that likely never heard of McDonagh (although his plays have garnered Tony Award nominations and his indy film In Bruges received critical acclaim). Dunphy’s production company, Mooncoin, named after the Irish village in which his grandfather lived, is the only production company in the world to stage McDonagh’s complete series.

Dunphy might attribute his tenacity – and his perfectionist nature – to the advice given to him by a Tae Kwon Do instructor he had growing up in eastern Iowa: “Don’t ever settle for second best at anything you do.”

A loner
Brendan Dunphy was born in 1983 in Oxford, Ohio. He spent his preschool years in Zachary, La., but moved with his parents and two brothers to eastern Iowa when he was 8 years old.

His love of hot summers followed him from Louisiana, where he played baseball year-round. He liked to hunt for frogs, snakes, and crawfish.

By the time he moved to Wilton, Iowa, where he went to high school, Dunphy’s family had moved around a lot. Dunphy was a loner.

“I didn’t have a large network of friends,” he says. “I had a wiener dog named Moose. He was my best friend.”

But Dunphy was athletic, and he developed into a good student. He was active in martial arts and played football. He became a bank teller at age 16 at the Wilton Savings Bank. His supervisors trusted him to lock the safes and arm the security system.

He graduated from high school with nearly a 4.0 grade point average.


Dunphy collects samples of mosquito larvae as part of the mosquito surveillance program he conducts in the state of Iowa.

The lure of the stage
After attending Muscatine Community College for two years, Dunphy arrived at Iowa State. He wanted to be a veterinarian, but not for long.

“I didn’t love the idea of vet school once I got here,” he says. “I thought I had a clear idea, but then I had to change my plan. I liked animals in a wild setting, so I wanted to study them in their natural habitat, not in a clinical setting.” He became a zoology major.

He studied for a semester at Humboldt State University in northern California in wildlife biology.

“I wanted to learn about the world around me,” he says. “I did not view college as a vehicle for employment. I had a natural, genuine curiosity. I was a sponge.”

Dunphy added majors in animal ecology and entomology. At the encouragement of his father, he also took acting classes.

“My dad was shy. He regretted not having done theatre himself. He said, ‘Maybe you should give it a try.’ He thought I’d be good at it.”

Dunphy auditioned for the ISU Theatre Department’s production of James and the Giant Peach. He was cast in the lead role.

“I’ve been doing theatre ever since,” he says. “It became an addiction.”

And he was good at it, too. One of his theatre professors was the late Patrick Gouran, who went on to become one of Dunphy’s mentors.

“Brendan’s special quality as an actor rests in the fact that he creates people
on stage and screen,” Gouran said this fall. “Not personalities, not characters, not entertainment ‘stars.’ This is a rare quality in an actor, and Brendan Dunphy has it.” (Gouran passed away in December.)

Dunphy went on to perform in ISU productions of A Christmas Carol, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Intimate Apparel. He spent a semester at the
University of Massachusetts Amherst and stayed for the summer, both working
with turtles and performing in Hamlet with the Hampshire Shakespeare Company.

He graduated from Iowa State with a triple major and a 4.0 grade point average.


In a rehearsal for Martin McDonough’s A Behanding in Spokane, Dunphy as Mervyn is threatened at gunpoint by actor Dan Chase as Carmichael.

Mooncoin Entertainment
Dunphy found himself acting on camera for the first time in 2007. He did all the usual first-time-actor work: commercials, industrials, short films. He wasn’t very selective.

Then he got an agent and “learned what not to do.” He was cast in his first of several Iowa State commercials in 2008 from an open audition pool.

“I’m proud of those commercials,” he says. “That was a feel-good project.”

He made his first feature-length film, “Sugar,” about a minor-league baseball player. Dunphy was an extra. He played Jordan, a teenage hustler, in the film “16 to Life.”

After that, he briefly considered moving to Los Angeles to pursue acting.

“People told me, ‘Go to Hollywood,’” he said. “I thought about it, but a director told me, ‘You have a good thing going here, so why leave?’ I decided I didn’t want to be a cliché. I want to show people you can have a life for yourself in show business and still live in Iowa.”

At the same time he was starting his film career, he discovered the plays of
Martin McDonagh. He was cast in a 2008 StageWest Theatre Company production of The Lieutenant of Inishmore in Des Moines. The play about Irish terrorists was the funniest thing Dunphy had ever read.

“I thought, ‘This is the theatre I’ve yearned for for years – it appeals to 40-year-old construction workers,’” Dunphy said. “I wanted to be in all these plays. I wanted to do all these roles. I wanted to do them NOW.”

So he formed his own production company, Mooncoin Entertainment, building his first set in his garage. He traveled on his own to Ireland for research and to learn the native dialect. (“I needed to get a feel for the place,” he said.
“I wanted to know how to build a cottage.”) He partnered with the Des Moines Social Club and recruited a talented pool of local actors and technicians.

He produced and acted in one play after another: A Skull in Connemara in 2009; The Lonesome West, The Pillowman, and The Beauty Queen of Leenane in 2010; The Lieutenant of Inishmore and A Behanding in Spokane in 2011; and, finally, The Cripple of Inishmaan in 2012.

Zachary Mannheimer, founder and executive director of the Des Moines Social Club, said about Dunphy, “He is a great example of what the theatre scene in Des Moines needs: people not afraid to take risks.”


Dunphy is Flynn Fitzpatrick in the Iowa Filmmakers’ comedy series “Marooned.”

Iowa Filmmakers
In the summer of 2008, Dunphy began working on a film, The Yin of Gary Fischer’s Life, with Paul David Benedict and Scott Siepker (’05 psychology). The trio eventually launched Iowa Filmmakers, a production company formed to create high-quality long- and short-format films in Iowa. (You may be familiar with “Iowa Nice,” a YouTube sensation with more than 1.2 million views. That’s an Iowa Filmmakers production.)

The team has worked on a number of projects since 2010. Central among them is Valentine Road, a dramatic web serial that takes place in prohibition-era Iowa. Two components of the series are complete: “Eye of the Storm,” a short clip about two hit men (Dunphy is “The Man in Black”); and “A Kidnapping at Castelle Manor,” a prologue to season one. Filming for the rest of the series is currently on hold as the group secures additional funding.

“Our budget has increased from five digits to half a million dollars,” Dunphy explained. “Valentine Road is a complex production.”

Valentine Road is a period piece, with a need for historically accurate costumes, guns, cars, and locations. The show has a large cast and complex technical requirements.

“This is the ultimate project [for us], but the painful realization is that we have to put it off for awhile,” he says.

Meanwhile, the team is working on other projects. Currently in the works is a comedy series called “Marooned.” It’s the story of a pair of actors who find themselves stuck in Iowa with nothing to do after a scandal shuts down the state’s film office. Dunphy plays Flynn Fitzpatrick, a soap star from L.A.; Siepker is Liam, an actor from New York. A pilot episode has been shot; the next step is selling the series.

“We’re hoping Hulu or Netflix will pick it up,” Dunphy said. “They are looking for original content. We would love to help Des Moines become a player in the industry of online production and prove you can do film and theatre from Iowa.”


Dunphy is the narrator in Iowa State’s “Choose Your Adventure” television commercials; this one features Nicole Edmond, ’04 biology, who went on to study at Johns Hopkins Medical School.


On location in Story City, Iowa, Dunphy is the producer of the Valentine Road prologue to season one, “A Kidnapping at Castelle Manor.”

Coming full circle
Brendan Dunphy is always working.

“I want to do it all,” he says. “To have as many adventures as possible. On my death bed I want to say, ‘That was a really, really great ride.’”

He continues to trap and survey ticks and mosquitoes in the state of Iowa, tracking the spread of Lyme Disease, West Nile, and other viruses and bacteria transmitted by the insects. He oversees the department’s insectary and supervises a staff of undergraduate students.

“Like everything else he does, Brendan throws himself into his lab work with tremendous passion,” says Lyric Bartholomay, ISU associate professor of medical entomology. “He’s talented enough that he can do exactly what he wants to do. No one can compare to him in terms of what he knows about
mosquitoes in Iowa.”

Even as his show business career expands, Dunphy says, “I can’t see myself ever giving up science. I love working in academia. I can see myself doing more research.”

Right now, Dunphy is in the midst of accomplishing one of his lifelong dreams of having his own television show educating people about animals and the natural world. He is hosting television programs on the topic of insects for the Science Channel (also known as Discovery Science) and the BBC.

He’s also actively pursuing another of his loves: rock’n’roll music. Just this fall Dunphy had his first experience in the recording studio. He’s a singer and lyricist, and he says he’s hoping to eventually form a band, perform live shows, record songs in the studio, and make music videos.

Oh, and then there’s Broadway. That’s another one of his professional goals.

“I never relax,” Dunphy says. “I’m never satisfied.”

About this story | By Carole Gieseke, editor of VISIONS. Originally published in the winter 2013 issue.