Riley Wertenberger

Headshot of Riley Wertenberger


KU major: Microbiology; Class of 2012

Current occupation: Graduate student

Research Mentors: Dr. Susan Egan and Dr. Caroline Chaboo

Q: Describe the undergraduate research/creative experience that you had while at KU:

A:  I was an undergraduate research assistant in Dr. Susan Egan's microbiology lab as well as in Dr. Caroline Chaboo's entomology and evolutionary science lab. In Dr. Egan's lab, I learned the fundamentals of lab techniques, safety, and research in molecular biology. I use all of the techniques that I learned in Dr. Egan's lab everyday. I was a part of a group of students that traveled with Dr. Chaboo to the amazon of Peru to capture beetles. A couple of us were assigned a project that we worked on during the trip that eventually resulted in a published paper.


Q: What do you think was the most important thing you learned while doing undergraduate research?

A: The most important thing I learned was to keep my ears open at all times and to not be afraid to look things up online or in a textbook. There will always be more to learn in biology, no matter how far you go in your career. Ask questions all the time.


Q: What advice do you have for undergraduates who might be interested in doing research or creative scholarship?

A: As an undergraduate interested in research, you should continually hone your interests and look up graduate school laboratories that have the same interests. Contact these people early and be honest with yourself!


Q: Do you use any of the skills or perspectives gained doing research in your current occupation? How so?

A: I worked in a reproductive physiology lab at KUMC that focused on molecular biology, so I used the skills that I developed in Dr. Egan's lab everyday.


Q: Many undergraduate researchers are making decisions about what to do after they graduate from KU. Having been in those shoes, what do you know now that you wish you’d known then? Do you have any advice?

A: My best piece of advice is that graduate school directly after graduation is not right for everyone. Do not rush your decisions. I graduated from KU in 2012 and then spent two years working in an academic lab. During that time, I matured and developed so many skills, as well as met fascinating people who love science. I started graduate school last fall for my Masters degree. If you love science and the life of research (not always the same thing), then you should pursue it. Also, the mentor makes all the difference.