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!




Hanging with the Hounds

It's been a while since my last post, so you may want to check out my bio.

There are three guarantees when it comes to being a college student:

  1. you will eat a lot of ramen,
  2. you won't sleep enough, and
  3. you will get stressed out.

Multiple studies have shown that interacting with animals helps reduce the immediate feelings stress felt by people, along with getting their mind off of the things stressing them out.

Students with dog

Koda, the Lab-Rottweiler, helps students relieve stress.

One of the awesome benefits of going to a small school like William Woods is the opportunities available for undergraduate research through the Mentor-Mentee program. This program allows for students to work alongside professors in their field of study to complete a research project of their choice and design. Then, the projects are presented to students, faculty and staff at the end of the year.

Social Work student Sam Harris relaxes with a kitten

Social Work student Sam Harris relaxes with a kitten.

For my Mentor-Mentee project, I got the opportunity to work alongside one of our social work professors, Dr. Elizabeth Wilson. We are studying the effects of recreational activities on the immediate stress levels of students. Our first event was to bring dogs to campus and allow students to sit and play with them for as long as they wanted. To support our project, we enlisted the help of the Central Missouri Humane Society and Puppies with a Purpose to bring dogs and kittens to campus. Puppies with a Purpose is a group that helps to socialize and train dogs to become support animals later in life. Our Mentor-Mentee program is just now starting up, so there will be a few more events coming up helping students reduce their stress!

Students with dogsThe goal of my project is to hopefully bring these amazing stress reducers back to campus on a regular basis to help students relax.

Keep an eye out for more of my posts as I showcase the different events and cool projects put on by the Social Work department here at William Woods!



Learning in the Lab

One of the best things that has happened since I started at William Woods is that I have found my passion. Now I still don't know yet exactly what I want to do with my life, but I do know that it will probably involve vet school and eventually a PhD. I get to go to my classes every single day and enjoy what I'm learning. I find myself making connections to concepts in my current classes with the information I learned nearly three years ago as a freshman! It is an amazing thing to really enjoy class and reading the textbook!

This year I've had the opportunity to work with Dr. Pullen on a research project involving eukaryotic cell culture. We work with several types of human cancer and I have learned how to keep these cell cultures alive in the lab so we can study them. The goal is to find out something new about these cell lines by looking at the proteins they express.

Working under the cell culture hood

Working under the cell culture hood




Last week we started to think that maybe our approach wasn't going to yield well quantifiable results. This means that I get to learn about another lab technique I haven't done before! I've found that I really enjoy the challenges Dr. Pullen gives me in the lab. Often times things don't work out either due to a mistake or just luck, but it turns out the feeling you get when something finally works is just that much sweeter if it didn't go the way you'd planned the first (or second or third) time. I'm learning that lab work requires a person to be resilient.lab

Whether you're interested in science, American Sign Language, equestrian science or business, I hope you find that the professors here at The Woods help you find your passion. Through the experiences I've had with my professors here, I've figured out that I really enjoy learning about the science you can't see (cell biology) and I want to continue to do things in the lab that broaden our understanding of how life works.


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Research at The Woods

This past week I had two really neat things happen. First, my Mentor-Mentee Project started to come together! What is Mentor-Mentee? It is a year-long collaborative project between a faculty member and a student where you research a problem and come up with a solution, perform an experiment, or create something. It is a great way to get experience working on a large task, and you even get a notation on your transcript!

My project is with Professor Jean Kraus in the Equestrian Department. We are creating a problem based learning module for horse health scenarios. There are a few classes at WWU where you learn common horse illnesses and problems, their symptoms, step to diagnosis, and their treatment. Our learning module, which will be online, walks through recognizing a problem, diagnosing it, and treating it. Just this week we actually started creating the website! We have been writing out our scenarios and thinking of ways to make it visual and effective since the start of the semester, and it is nice to see it start to come together. The overall goal is not only to provide a study tool for students, but also to learn the nuances of the scenarios and to understand what parts might be more challenging for students.

The second thing that happened last week was in Genetics. WWU Assistant Professor Kimberly Keller Ph.D did a lot of postgraduate research at the University of Missouri in Columbia. In her time there, she met Dr. Anjete Hesse, a biochemistry professor and plant researcher. This semester, Dr. Keller invited Dr. Hesse as a guest presenter in our genetics class. Not only did she teach us about her research, she actually let us perform some lab work for her!


Dr. Hesse (left) and Dr. Keller (right) in the WWU lab

The overall goal of Dr. Hesse's research is to determine what makes certain plants resistant to some bacteria, but not others. Eventually, this could help in making plants more resilient against bacterial infections, helping the agriculture industry immensely. The US Agriculture Industry generates over $100 billion every year. Millions of dollars are lost due to crop damage from different types of pathogens. This particular experiment involves finding two genetic mutations that negatively affect the ability of a plant (Arabidopsis thaliana) to fight of bacteria. As a Genetics lab class, we isolated the DNA from plants Dr. Hesse's lab has been growing. Because DNA is so tiny and there isn't an extraordinary amount found in each cell, we ran a PCR (Polymerase Chain Recation) which amplifies the DNA so we have enough to figure out what genes are in it.  This week we will get to figure out if they have either or both of the two genetic mutations of interest!


I isolated DNA from plants 9&10


Preparing the sample for PCR

It has been a great month so far, and I am really excited to see my Mentor-Mentee project take off and find out what genes are in the plants I isolated DNA from! Hopefully we find something interesting and helpful to Dr. Hesse's research!