Student Blog The blog of William Woods University Undergraduate Students


Researching Research?

Student looking into microscope

Cassie is checking pancreatic cancer cells under the microscope to make sure they are growing so she can isolate proteins from them.

When I was looking at colleges, I already had an idea of what I wanted to do with my life. I thought for sure I was going to be an equine veterinarian. Although it has evolved a little bit since then, I still applied to veterinary school and graduate school this semester.

If you think you might be interested in attending a professional school (veterinary, medical, dental, law, etc) or graduate school, it is a really good idea to check out what you should be doing during your undergraduate years to prepare.

Two very important things to consider are shadowing or experience hours and research. Shadowing and experience hours are important and also relatively easy to get. You just have to be persistent and polite to professionals in your prospective field.

Research, however, seemed to me like a big scary thing that I had no idea how to approach. Not only did I have no clue how to go about finding a research experience, I felt like I did not know enough yet to actually "do" research. Through my experiences at William Woods and the guidance of my professors, I ended up with quite a bit of research to put on my resume!

Here are some tips for getting research experience:

  • Research the Research: Ask the schools and departments about undergraduate opportunities before you commit to the school! Make sure they will help you get the experience you need to be successful. William Woods has several programs to help with this including Mentor-Mentee and Cox Research Scholar, both of which I have participated in.
  • Start Early: Work in your department as a first year and build relationships with your professors. That way when an opportunity comes up, they think of you!
  • Propose your own Idea: Show initiative by coming up with your own project (bonus points if it relates to something your professor is interested it).
  • Make Summer Productive: Use your break to participate in an undergraduate research program or get some of those shadowing hours in!
Student preparing western blot

This is my best friend Hallie setting up a western blot for protein detection.

Even if you aren't exactly sure what you want to do with your career, I highly suggest you seek out an opportunity to be exposed to the research environment. Every field is different. You never know what you'll enjoy if you don't give it a try!

Now I get to work with my mentors in the lab and also my peers and friends on projects that push me to integrate all of the knowledge I have learned in my classes. It's really fun to realize that I am using concepts and techniques I started learning my freshman year and built upon to detect trefoil factor proteins in mammalian cancer.

Plus, we have a lot of fun in the lab! We love to have fun, post goofy science comics, and reward ourselves with sweet treats for a job well done.

Thanks for reading!




Surviving Application Season

As November inches closer, so do a lot of application deadlines! As a senior, the million dollar question (regardless of whether you're in high school or college) is: what are your plans after graduation? I have to admit, I dread that question. You get asked that at least once a week and thinking about the future is certainly daunting! Luckily, I have found an answer: I am applying to veterinary school and graduate school programs for microbiology. This is generally a satisfactory answer and they move on, but every so often they ask more like why two different things? and what happens if you get into both? I don't exactly have great answers for those questions, but I have time to figure that out!

For me, veterinary school applications were due quite early. I had them turned in by the September 15th deadline, though admittedly I cut it close! Now I'm working on graduate school applications whose deadlines are in December. Luckily, my professors who helped me with my vet school applications and letters of recommendation have a lot of experience with graduate school applications as well. It might feel like December is a ways away, but it certainly will sneak up faster than we think! I'm not an application expert by any means, but I have applied to college, internships, and veterinary school so I've been around the block a few

Colorado State University Veterinary Teach Hospital entrance

This is the veterinary teaching hospital at Colorado State University! Don't forget to tour any school before you commit to it!

times. Here are some tips about what I learned:

  1. Start Early. Yes, everyone says this, but believe me it is very true. You do not want to be the person who is worried about whether your ACT scores (or in my case, transcripts!) arrive on time. Early means at least a month (preferably several) before your deadline.
  2. Don't Panic. If you didn't start early and you only have a limited amount of time to get your stuff in, stay calm. Yes this situation is a stressful one, but you will survive it! It might involve spending more on shipping, or prioritizing your applications over your extracurricular activities, but you gotta do what you gotta do!
  3. Make a Checklist. Look at every school or program you're applying to and figure out exactly what you need to turn in and whether it is turned in online, through email, fax, or snail mail. Organize it by school on a master sheet and enjoy the satisfaction of checking off a box.
  4. Ask Questions. If you are unsure about a deadline, method of submission, or program requirement, contact your admissions representative or whomever you can and ask! It is silly to stress yourself out wondering if you've done what you needed to do. Send an email, or better yet pick up the phone and call to show that you really are interested! Also get your advisor or teacher to take a look at your application and essays so you can really polish your final product!
  5. Create a Timeline. Remember that checklist? Use it to keep track of the "hard" deadlines from the schools or programs. Make a separate calendar or list for you to have "soft" deadline. Include when you are going to write that personal statement, ask for a letter of recommendation (DO THIS EARLY and don't forget to write a thank you note), and hit the big scary submit button. The key is to give yourself little deadlines so you're constantly making progress and are ready to submit well before the hard deadlines, instead of getting stuck doing your entire application in a day or two.

Of course there are many other things you can do to ensure you have a stellar application, but I find that these five things generally help me maintain my sanity through the craziness of application season. Balancing school, family, and extracurriculars is challenging enough so don't let applications get in the way of enjoying your senior year because you wait until the last minute! I am in the process of setting my "soft" deadlines for my graduate school applications and hopefully will be completely done before Thanksgiving so I can enjoy the holidays with my family.

Enjoy the fall weather! I certainly love it when the leaves begin to change and apple cider is in season.

Thanks for reading!



The Spring Semester is Wrapping Up!

It always amazes me how quickly time flies here at The Woods! We're in the middle of our finals week already. This is probably the most exciting, stressful, and saddest time of the year. It's exciting because we get to go on summer break, and for me that means going home to Colorado to see my family and friends. It's stressful because we have to finish up all of those semester long papers and projects and take final exams. It's also sad because a lot of your friends graduate from the classes ahead of you and you leave your friends for three months. It really is bittersweet!

I can't believe this is the last week of my junior year. While I look forward to my senior year because there are sure to be a lot more "firsts" and adventures, it will also be full of a lot of "lasts". Every time a chapter in your life closes it's a strange mix of sad and exciting, so I will be sure to enjoy every moment I have left at William Woods.

Last week Campus Activities Board hosted Rock the Dock to give us a break from studying. We went down to the dock and had Chipotle, music, karaoke, sand volleyball, and kayaks for the lake. It was a great stress reliever and we got to enjoy the beautiful weather!

Students playing sand volleyball at Rock the Dock

Students playing sand volleyball at Rock the Dock

I am looking forward to finishing up this week and heading home for a while. I hope to meet many new students in the fall through orientation, recruitment, and classes! Enjoy the last few weeks of school!


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Missouri Academy of Science

This past weekend I traveled to St. Joseph, Missouri for the Missouri Academy of Science Annual Meeting. I went to present a poster of the cancer research I've been doing all year with Dr. Nicholas Pullen. Rachel Ostrem and Dr. Hart also went to present on their medical biotechnology research project from this semester. We had a great time!

We arrived on Friday afternoon and got checked in. We were able to check out the room where Rachel would present and I found the spot for my poster. The atrium of the science facility had this beautiful structure of trefoil, which is a protein domain. It so happens that I am looking at a specific trefoil factor for my cancer research so it was really cool to see that, what a coincidence!

Representing William Woods with Rachel, Dr. Pullen, and Dr. Hart

Representing William Woods with Rachel, Dr. Pullen, and Dr. Hart

On Saturday we went to the opening session. They announce that the journal for Missouri Academy of Science is moving online, and did some other business. I'm hoping that maybe next year some of my work with Dr. Pullen could be submitted to the journal for publication.

The rest of the morning we sat and listened to a bunch of presentations. I was excited that I got to watch Rachel explain her project. We also learned about other current biomedical technology research happening in the state of Missouri.

Rachel and Dr. Hart discussing their project

Rachel and Dr. Hart discussing their project

After lunch it was time for the poster session. I got to talk to a lot of different people and answer questions about my project. I even had some cancer biologists give some suggestions on how to move forward with our work!

My poster set up with the trefoil sculpture behind it!

My poster set up with the trefoil sculpture behind it!

Overall this was a great experience. I can't wait to submit another abstract next year, and I hope we get accepted again! I'm so glad that I got the chance to work with Dr. Pullen and represent William Woods Biology.



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