Alumni Spotlight | Winter 2018
KU major: Microbiology, Class of 2007
Current occupation: Assistant Professor
Research mentors while at KU: Bill and Wendy Picking
Describe the undergraduate research experience that you had while at KU:
A: My undergraduate research experience was one of the most transformative experiences of my life. I began as a Freshman in the Picking Lab and worked all four years doing research on bacteria that cause intestinal diseases. My mentors, Dr. Bill and Wendy Picking, gave me a first hand experience that taught me how to do research, how to drive a project and how to think scientifically. They also taught me how fun science can be! My research experiences at KU set me up to achieve my career goal of running my own independent research lab as a professor at Michigan State University.
Q: What do you think was the most important thing you learned while doing undergraduate research?
A: By far the most important thing I learned was persistence. In science a lot of what we do fails. It is important to push forward and think deeply about why an experiment didn't work or why the results are not what is expected. It is this persistence that opens up your mind to the new ideas that your data is telling you! It takes a while to develop this persistence, but it is critical to succeed in science.
Q: What advice do you have for undergraduates who might be interested in doing research or creative scholarship?
A: Start early. While most undergraduates don't begin to seek out research experiences until they are Juniors or Seniors, this limits what they can really learn and absorb in a real lab environment. By starting early on in your career you will be much more comfortable with how the research in a biology lab works, and be well trained to be successful in whatever future studies you will pursue. It is also much more impressive to future career paths (Med School, Grad School, etc.) to have a long standing research experience rather than short periods of research.
Q: Do you use any of the skills or perspectives gained doing research in your current occupation? How so?
A: I use almost all the skills I learned as an undergraduate researcher! I am now running my own research lab and training new undergraduates to get excited about science! As an undergrad I learned how to drive projects, give presentations, and think critically, all of which I continue to use daily in my own lab.
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: Find something that excites YOU and pursue it. By being passionate for your work you will find something that excites you every single day. I was lucky enough to find this early on in my research career but many of my friends didn't find this until after graduation. By having a passion for your career you will be more engaged and more fulfilled throughout your work-life.