My undergraduate research experience was certainly the most enjoyable and rewarding aspect of my undergraduate experience. No other experience or course during my undergraduate days had a greater impact on my time as an undergrad or on my success after graduation. I particularly enjoyed the interaction with students and faculty from a wide array of disciplines throughout and beyond the UW Whitewater campus. Those that share in the undergraduate experience share a unique camaraderie and relationships that extend beyond life as an undergrad.
Applied learning and skill development were two aspects of undergraduate research which I appreciated most and have had the greatest impacts. Undergraduate research provided me with the opportunity to develop skill sets and tools which have significantly contributed to my successes. From a science perspective, research conducted as an undergraduate provided me with the opportunity to better understand and apply the scientific method, experimental design, and biological concepts introduced in a classroom setting. From a general perspective, I developed skills such as grant writing, applied statistical analysis, and manuscript preparation, which are all critical skills necessary to success for any student pursuing a research career.
Participation in the undergraduate research program solidified my career path and provided the opportunities for advancement of my career goals. I believe that my experience was a critical component in acceptance to an outstanding graduate program and the success I currently enjoy in my research and funding as a graduate student. In March 2009, I presented research at the Midwest Chapter of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry annual meeting. Both my research and travel to the conference were funded by UWW URP. My participation and presentation at this conference directly resulted in recruitment to The Institute of Environmental and Human Health at Texas Tech University, which ranks as one of the top Environmental Toxicology departments in the nation.
Participation in the URP promotes and encourages the development of professional relationships through interaction with UWW faculty and interaction with students and professionals at regional and national conferences. During my time at UWW, I attended conferences and events such as the National Conference for Undergraduate Research, the annual meeting of the Midwest Chapter of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, UWW Undergraduate Research Day, and Posters in the Rotunda. Participation in each of those events resulted in many professional contacts and relationships, most of which still exist today.
The most critical relationships I developed were through interaction with UWW Department of Biology faculty and mentors. My undergraduate research mentor, Dr. Elisabeth Harrahy, encouraged me to pursue my areas of interest, provided me with every opportunity to succeed, and certainly sacrificed much of her personal time to ensure my success. Her mentorship leads me to a better understanding scientific concepts and a deeper appreciation for the field of environmental toxicology. To this day she still remains a trusted mentor, collaborator, and friend. It's relationships such as this, and those with other faculty members, that make undergraduate research at UWW a very rewarding and worthwhile experience.
The key to undergraduate research is "opportunity". Participating in the URP opens the door to a much wider array of opportunity for graduates, whether moving on to graduate school or pursuing employment. Needless to say, I'm a huge advocate for undergraduate research and I would encourage all students to take advantage of the outstanding opportunities that the Undergraduate Research Program at UW - Whitewater provides.
Thank you to the faculty, staff, and donors that make the UWW URP such a great success and provide the opportunity to excel to so many students. Your efforts are certainly appreciated by this University of Wisconsin - Whitewater graduate!
My involvement in undergraduate research played an extremely significant role in my college experience, as well as my life after UW-Whitewater. Conducting research under the supervision of my science professors allowed me to become an active member and contributor to the scientific community and brought more meaning to my undergraduate career than could be fulfilled by simply attending the required classes to earn a degree in cell biology. I was not only able to apply the techniques and principles that were taught in my biology and chemistry courses, but I was using them for something far greater than completing a lab report for a grade. I was given the opportunity to use my skills in attempt to discover something new, something that I could take pride in and call my own. Undergraduate research gave me a new reason to be striving for continuing education and offered unique experiences to represent myself and UW-Whitewater.
After completing my research, I was then able to present the information that I had obtained from many long hours in the lab. I traveled to many professional science conferences to exhibit a poster that displayed the results of my study. Not only was I able to visit exciting new places for these conferences, such as Montana, Colorado, and California, but I was exposed to the great minds that develop new technology and are the leaders in advancing our scientific knowledge. I remember feeling honored and proud that I was able to showcase my research from the small university of UW-Whitewater on national stages alongside other renowned academic institutions and researchers.
I am still using the principles and experience I gained from undergraduate research as I attend graduate school at Midwestern University to become a Physical Therapist (PT). Just this past week, I participated in a 3 day conference that is dedicated to exhibiting the latest PT research. I was unable to present my own research, but my experience as a researcher and conference attendee while attending UW-Whitewater helped me understand and appreciate the platform and poster presentations.
As I reflect on my undergraduate career, nothing stands out more than the valuable opportunities and experience I received performing research. My involvement was tremendously beneficial during college and even now as I develop my professional career. I am truly thankful for the undergraduate research program and all of its supporters, as it brought significance to my bachelor's degree and gives me a reason to proudly display the sticker in my car's rear window that says "UW-Whitewater Alumni."
Katy Lange (Dec 2010 graduate)
My personal experience with URP was in the field of environmental science. The biggest impact that URP had on me was the excitement of discovery and the feeling of accomplishment. The work I did and the science I learned in the lab was different than in a regular classroom because it was all hands-on, and for me personally, that's the best way I learn. It was extremely thrilling to see the results you anticipated and relate them to actual issues that are impacting the environment. It's also a great feeling to know that the work you put in and the dedication it took can and will make a difference. However, just like in life, not everything is that simple and we had our obstacles. But one of the greatest things about URP is the way it brings out and enhances your critical thinking skills. Life might give you set backs but the important thing is how you react and adjust. I learned to think "outside the box" in a way I've never had to before. This was my favorite part. When tests didn't turn out as expected and it was back to the drawing board, I had the guidance of my mentor but she allowed me to be apart of the thought process gave me space to think. This was different than just following instructions and gave me a great feeling of independence; another one of my favorite parts about URP.
The UR program also gives you an incredible feeling of accomplishment when you can take what you learned and share it someone else, whether that be someone who shares similar interests or someone who has never heard anything about the kind of work you are doing. It's your work. It's your time and commitment. I took many wonderful courses during my time at UWW, and you can learn in a classroom along side your peers, but the work you put forth and the experiences you gain during URP will always be unique to you. Granted, there were other obstacles to face such as balancing research and other classroom work. However, most of life is a balancing act and I learned excellent ways to prioritize my time and, as it turned out, is one of the most important aspects at my job.
I currently work for a claims clearinghouse company called RelayHealth - McKesson. It's a Fortune 1000 company that impacts hospitals and doctors offices all across the country by improving physician practice cash flow with services that enhance productivity. The position I hold demands tolerance, patience, and self-confidence on a daily basis. I learned all of these virtues first hand with URP. You don't realize it while you're in the program but the skills and knowledge you learn will impact your life in several ways. I'm very grateful for UWW and URP, and all the mentors and staff that put in the work to give students an incredible experience. If I could go back, the only thing I would change would be to join the program sooner and tell more students about it.
Andrea Kornowski (December 2010 graduate)
My experience with the UW-Whitewater Undergraduate Research Program was more than just a research project; it was a stepping stone linking me from college to a career. The many opportunities that UGR has presented me have shaped both the person I have become, and the career that I am lucky to be a part of today. I joined UGR, as a recommendation from my professors, and at the time I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into. Little did I know that shortly it would be the start of my professional development as a science teacher, and would present me with opportunities that I never dreamed of.
My experience with the UGR program at UW-Whitewater was influential in helping me land a position as an intern for my student teaching. Just months after graduating from UW-Whitewater, I was offered a long term substitute position from the school district in which I interned, and was offered a job the following school year (where I am currently employed). My research did not only affect me, but coworkers bought into it, and my students were influenced by it. It was a life changing experience for not only me, but all others that were involved. Each day I think about not only the strength of the impact that my research has had on who I've become as a teacher, but the impact that it has daily on my students and everyone that I have been able to share my findings.
The impact of my research was not limited to the school district in which I taught, and the UW-Whitewater campus, rather it was a topic that I got to speak about in five other states. Our abstract (Research partner-Lynn Smith; Mentor-Liesl Hohenshell) was accepted for presentation at two national teaching conferences: NSTA-National Science Teacher Association Conference in San Francisco, California, and NABT-National Association of Biology Teachers Annual Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I had never imagined starting my first year of teaching with presentations at national teaching conferences. UGR also presented me with the opportunity to attend a pre-research conference in Council Bluffs, IA, and the opportunity to present at two other university research symposiums at Colorado State University and the University of Montana. These were opportunities that I would have never experienced if I hadn't been a part of UGR.
My research offered me the opportunity to be a part of something campus related at UW-Whitewater that I otherwise wouldn't have been a part of as a commuting student. It taught me not only the research process, but also what hard work and dedication really is. Currently being employed in the field of education, I really miss not having a "research project," but I have found that informal research has become a part of my daily practices as a teacher. If I were to offer anyone at UW-Whitewater advice in how to get the most out of your college experience, I share my UW-Whitewater Undergraduate Research story. As I write letters of recommendation for my students to UW-Whitewater, I share with them the possibilities of what UW-Whitewater UGR has to offer. I'm not convinced that I would be where I am at today, and that all of the pieces would have fallen together as they had, without the UW-Whitewater Undergraduate Research Program.
The Undergraduate Research Program (URP) significantly enriched my education at Whitewater and continues to have a great impact on my study of medicine. It was one of the most enjoyable and productive experiences I had at Whitewater. Among the many things the URP has done for me, four are most notable:
First, participating in the URP served as a way for me to test my interest in science. I was excited by the prospect of finding answers to questions that had not been studied enough or at all. I realized that if I was willing to dedicate my time and energy to my research, I could potentially make a contribution to the science community. At the end, I had the opportunity to write and defend a thesis and my results served to steer my lab in the right direction for future research.
Second, I gained a deeper understanding of the topics of my research and mechanisms governing the laboratory methods that I used. Gaining this knowledge has helped me participate in and contribute to discussions about research in medical school. For example, one of the techniques I spent a lot of time doing as part of the URP was to perform immunoassays to quantify steroid hormone levels from plasma samples of the three-spine stickleback fish, and this same technique is being used extensively in several clinical laboratory tests. It has come up time and again during my medical education this far and my practical knowledge of this technique has greatly eased my understanding of its clinical use.
Third, through the URP, I learned valuable skills and gained experiences that are otherwise not part of traditional classes. I went through the process of applying for grants, I learned about the general organization and inner-workings of a science laboratory, and I gained exposure to the process of submitting an abstract for a conference. I later gave a poster presentation at a regional conference and an oral presentation at the National Conference of Undergraduate Research (NCUR). Because of the evidence-based nature of medicine and the immense amount of research evaluation in medical education, experience of these processes has proven to be very valuable during my first two years of medical school.
And finally, the URP served as an opportunity for me to work very closely with some of my professors. I spent a lot of time in the labs of Drs. Jeffrey McKinnon and Ellen Davis during most of my sophomore, junior and senior years. I also worked in the lab of Dr. Robert Kuzoff during my last summer in Whitewater. These faculty became my mentors and they guided me in designing and executing my research projects. It gave me an opportunity to get to know them well and to learn from them and their experience. It also provided me the chance to show them my ability to work independently, follow instructions and think broadly. And they also witnessed the development of my general passion for science. As I now realize, it was very important to have teachers who knew these things about me and were willing to recommend me to the admission offices of medical schools.
Raymond and his brother, Maxwell. Both are UW-Whitewater graduates currently in medical schools.