What advice do you have for undergraduates who are just starting out in research?
Just get out there. Honestly, the hardest part is getting up the courage to ask to be involved. Many of the faculty researchers are happy and willing to help dedicated students get involved. I would encourage students to not wait until they are a junior or senior. I got involved the very first semester of my freshman year and do not regret it. There is nothing quite like it.
When you were 10 years old, what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was 10 years old, I wanted to be a farmer, despite growing up in the suburbs of Pittsburgh.
What are your current plans/career goals beyond the undergraduate?
I would like to attend graduate school. I am very interested in Animal Nutrition, particularly, and would love to explore how animals utilize nutrients to maintain health and performance.
When did you get involved in undergraduate research?
I became involved with undergraduate research the fall of my freshman year.
How long have you been involved in undergraduate research?
I have been involved in undergraduate research for about 1 year.
Why did you choose get involved in undergraduate research?
Since I want to pursue a career focused on animal nutrition, I wanted to gain experience in the field while attending West Virginia University.
How did you find/connect with your first faculty research adviser?
I talked with my adviser, Dr. Robert Dailey, and the Honor’s dean, Dr. Ken Blemings, about my interest in getting involved in undergraduate research. Both suggested that, because of my interest in Animal Nutrition, I should work with Dr. Joseph McFadden. Dr. Dailey talked to Dr. McFadden on my behalf, and I was quickly welcomed as a member of Dr. McFadden’s lab.
What is your current research?
Over the summer of 2015, I conducted a pilot study where I developed a protocol that involves the intravenous infusion of nicotinic acid to Holstein dairy cows. The protocol was developed to suppress fat breakdown (i.e., lipolysis) in a feed-restricted cow model. The goal of the research was to provide a means to investigate chemical processes in the dairy cow and how these processes affect insulin sensitivity. This research tool is now being used in a complete study being carried out this fall. Currently, I am helping Dr. McFadden’s graduate student, Amanda Davis, a Ruby Doctoral Fellow, with the complete study.
What skills have you learned by doing research that you would not have learned otherwise (i.e., from lecture alone)?
Honestly, I learn more from hands-on experiences in the field and lab. Somehow seeing the applications of concepts such as ceramide synthesis, a chemical process that affects insulin sensitivity, and other biological processes I hear about in lecture allows me to better understand. Also, research requires me to read more scholarly research articles in order to stay up to date on what is happening in the research world. Without undergraduate research, I would have never had the opportunity to sit down with graduate students and discuss cutting edge research articles. Overall, my confidence, comprehension, and application skills have all been increased by my experience in undergraduate research.
Have you participated in an undergraduate research program?
I participated in the SURE program over the summer where I ran my pilot research study developing the nicotinic acid infusion for dairy cows. I won runner up in the Agricultural and Environmental Science category of this competition.