Miami University, Here I come! – Alexandra Hilliard

If you got worried that I am leaving you, don’t! I am not transfering, OKAY?! I have really exciting news, but let me give you a little background information.

After my first semester of college I went home for a year. When I returned, I attended a readmitted/transfer/new students dinner. There, the current college’s president, Dr. Paul Fonteyn, discussed academic opportunities, specifically summer opportunities for science students. He warmly invited student who were intererested in learning more to speak with him further. Needless to say, I made an appointment to see him the next day! We sat down together and he told me all about the National Science Foundation’s “Research Experience for Undergraduates” fellowship program. What’s that? Pretty much, undergraduate students who don’t have access to many research opportunities at their home institutions can apply to other universities/colleges to do research for approximately 10 weeks during the summer break. President Fonteyn helped me hone my application for San Francisco State University’s program, where I would eventually be accepted, and then go on to work at during the summer of 2010. I worked with Dr. Ravinder Sehgal who studies infectious disease prevalence as a result of environmental degradation. As one of his undergraduate research assistants I was able to study the prevalence of avian malaria in endemic island birds of Papua New Guinea. I did PCR assays, DNA extractions, and DNA sequencing (to all non-science geeks, this isn’t really crucial to the theme of the blog). I pretty much got to travel across the country, live in an apartment for free, get way more money than I have at other jobs, get valuable research experience, learn more about graduate school, and collaborate with inspiring scientists. It was awesome! Last summer I didn’t go to another school, but stayed in Poultney, VT where I attend school, and fortunately met my significant other who is a wonderful addition to my life. However, I decided to apply for another program this summer. Among others, I applied to Miami University in Oxford, OH. I got accepted, and will be living there from the end of May through the beginning of August. I will get another stipend (aka a bunch of money), transferable upper level biology credits, free room and board, and another awesome experience! I’m not sure what project I will be working on, but I will let you know as soon as I find out!


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