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Life Sciences Magazine

Biology: the Study of Life

Biology

Kristen Scott, an aspiring veterinarian, explains that a biology degree is a great step to additional research, doctoral degrees, medical schools, or even dental schools. “Biology is a general major...you can kind of make it what you want it to be,” she says. Natalie Saxton, who went to Vanuatu last summer to study fireflies, says, “The study abroad was a pivotal point in my academic career because I gained so much as a researcher and as a person.” Saxton now has a research paper under review for publication. Teya Mathews says her research changed her career path. “Ever since I was little, I loved animals and my plan was to be a vet; but, I got into Dr. [Jerald] Johnson’s lab to do mentored research and eventually I started my own project my sophomore year. That's what made me realize I like research more than being a vet.” Mathews hopes to work for a wildlife conservation agency after earning a master’s degree.

Haley Brown (Biology): “There is a big emphasis in undergraduate research here....It makes it so much more real than just learning about fish and ecology in textbooks.”

Biological Science Education (BSE)

Shelby Kurtz started as a biology emphasis. But, she explains, “then I went on a mission and fell in love with teaching....and it made sense to do both.” She plans to teach seventh-grade biology after graduating next year. Emilee Severe says she chose biological science education to educate others about the environment. She advises, “Try as many things as you can. My freshman year I took classes in every department and started narrowing it down.” Courtni Horsley was a nursing student who was fascinated by her biology classes and switched to BSE. Horsley explains, “There is an element of competition in other classes I’ve taken, so something I love about bio-ed is that everyone is so willing to help each other.” Both Severe and Horsley study gender gaps in math and science classes with Dr. Liz Gibbons Bailey. “Women don’t participate as much in classrooms, and participation can be linked to grades,” explains Severe. Students working with Bailey hope to understand why gender gaps occur and how to close them.

Courtni Horsley(BSE):“My goal isn’t necessarily to teach kids to be passionate about biology, but to help them love learning and find a safe place at school.”

Bioinformatics

Bioinformatics combines computer science and statistics with genetics and molecular biology. Lauren McKinnon explains, “Basically it’s looking at one of the coolest subjects, which is life, and also using some of the most powerful tools, which are computer science and mathematics.” In Germany, McKinnon recently studied how tobacco plants interact with their environment. She explains, “I use computer science to transform that data into knowledge” because computers see patterns the human eye cannot. “A lot of discovery happens where fields meet because it allows for discovery and innovation.” McKinnon hopes to become a bioinformatics professor.

Eleanor DiNuzzo (Biodiversity):“I love it. I feel like it’s not work because it’s just so interesting."

Biodiversity and Conservation

Eleanor DiNuzzo says that biodiversity and conservation is a mix of environmental science and biology. “At first, I was in environmental science, and then biology, and then I narrowed down on biodiversity and I felt like it was the perfect mix of both.” DiNuzzo plans to work in non-governmental organizations focusing on marine research to protect coastlines. Peter Searle explains that he switched from pre-dental to biodiversity and conservation because he found joy in it. “I’ve always been a huge fisherman, so I decided to tailor my career after my passions instead of just going for the money.” He notes that since he switched to biodiversity, he has had more hands-on experience. He says, “It showed me that there's more than just book learning.” Searle has participated in studies at Lake Powell to research quagga and zebra mussels, and in Alaska to study rockfish. Eventually, Searle wants to work on invasive species with the government or the Army.