He’s a late-night Dungeons & Dragons gamer. He was a Pride Alliance officer. He’s a skilled xylophone player, a budding recreational poet, and a genetics researcher.
Austin Ainsworth ’19, from Honeoye Falls, NY, doesn’t want to sound sappy, but he says he’s all those things now because he came to SUNY Geneseo. “College is so much more than just a stepping stone to a good job,” he explained. “It’s an avenue to explore every facet of yourself, of your life, to learn who you are.”
Ainsworth knew a bit about himself and his interests before he arrived at Geneseo. The son of an emergency room doctor and the brother to a psychiatrist (Aspen Ainsworth ’09), he became intrigued by science early on. “Growing up, I’d see what my mother and my sister did and hear stories of their day-to-day lives. Dinner table conversations sometimes got kind of gross,” he admitted, but a love for science and an aptitude for medicine were born.
Majoring in biology and minoring in psychology, Ainsworth has conducted research in behavioral genetics since his junior year under assistant professor of biology Josephine Reinhardt. He and his lab partner will present that research project — how a certain gene can affect the behavior of the stalk-eyed fly, Teleopsis dalmanni — at this year’s GREAT Day symposium.
Ainsworth considers himself as much a musician as a scientist, playing in his Honeoye Falls-Lima High School band and joining Geneseo’s Percussion Ensemble his freshman year (he also plays in the College’s Symphony Orchestra and serves as the percussion section leader in the Geneseo Wind Ensemble). Although he’d been making music for a long time before coming to campus, a percussion ensemble was a brand-new beast for Ainsworth, and ensemble conductor Jim Tiller, M.M., challenged him right from the start.
“As a first-semester freshman, he gave me a ragtime xylophone solo that I thought so many other musicians in the group could play better,” Ainsworth said. “He put faith in me, and he helped me see I was capable of more than I thought I was. He showed me that I could achieve something that looked insurmountable.”
What comes after achieving the insurmountable? For Ainsworth, it meant wading more confidently into campus activities and groups such as the Poetry Society (reading and writing), the Pride Alliance (LGBTQ+ advocacy), the Geneseo Area Gaming Group (video, board, dice, etc.), Beta Beta Beta (TriBeta) National Biological Honor Society, and more. “The number of activities at Geneseo allowed me to continue with the things that I already liked but also to explore things that I hadn’t even considered,” he said.
That exploration was supported by the open attitude — and absence of weird, sideways looks — from Geneseo students, Ainsworth found. “I’ve never had a negative experience or even heard of one for involvement in whatever a person’s interested in,” he said. “I actually introduced my housemates to Dungeons & Dragons a couple of years ago, and now we play almost every week.”
Ainsworth is careful to explain that he values the clubs and activities not just for what he’s learned and who he’s met but also for how they’ve helped shape and mature him. “The biggest part of myself isn’t that I’m in the wind ensemble or the gaming group, it’s how they made me a different person and made me look at the world differently and appreciate things — games and music and science — differently,” he said. “I don’t think I knew who I was before I came here. I didn’t know that I loved poetry and D&D and anatomy labs and things like that — I had no idea.”
Ainsworth intends to attend medical school this fall, and although he has yet to decide on a specific area of study, he’s in no rush. Bolstered by the openness to discovery he cultivated while at Geneseo, he trusts he’ll figure it out. “My sister says everyone who goes to medical school will find something that they love,” he said. “There are so many different paths to take, so many different specialties — surgery, psychiatry, dermatology, internal medicine. She never met anyone who didn’t find something that called to them. I’ve taken that on faith. I love science, and I believe that my niche lies in medicine and that I’ll find something I love.”
Ainsworth is grateful — again, without sounding sappy — for his time at Geneseo and the life it allowed him to live. “All the people I’ve met have advanced different aspects of what makes me, me,” he said. “I wouldn’t change any of it.”