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Taylor Leibbrandt

Alumni Spotlight | Winter 2017

KU major: French Literature and Language, Class of 2012

Current occupation: Senior Global Employee Benefits Analyst  

Research mentor while at KU: Dr. Joy K. Ward



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

A: Over a three-year period, I worked alongside Dr. Joy K. Ward, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, on research experiments and projects aimed at better understanding evolutionary plant physiology and its response to environmental change.


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

A: I learned how to critically question. As a French major, I went into the lab with a very unique perspective on research in the humanities and literature, but I quickly learned that, in order to understand scientific problems, you have to be open to asking questions in a different way.


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

A: As a working professional, I believe that you should take any opportunity presented to you. Undergraduate research and scholarship allow you to use the in-classroom tools you have learned in a very practical way and to continue to grow intellectually.  


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

A: I currently work in a very data-driven position and I would not have been prepared for a professional career without having spent time working hand-in-hand with professors and staff. Employers are looking for nimble and diverse applicants and any opportunity that allows you to broaden your skill set while learning practical problem solving will ensure that you are an ideal candidate for any job.


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: Know your strengths. Employers are looking for candidates that know themselves and are able to take initiative. Also, do not be afraid to ask questions of potential employers, candidates should develop complex questions about the roles they are applying for.  

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