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Student Experiences

Below are links to interviews with Morris Biology students, conducted by fellow Biology student Hannah Sweet, ’16. They talk about their experiences doing research, internships, graduate school and employment. We encourage you to read their stories on their various experiences in hopes to better prepare you for your own opportunities in biology. If you are interested in sharing your own experience please contact Prof. Timna Wyckoff.


Jessica Anderson

I spent this past summer in Morris doing undergraduate research at the West Central Research and Outreach Center (WCROC). I was working directly with a swine research professor to evaluate the effects of tail biting on growing pigs. This position was a good fit for me because it allowed me to gain hands-on animal experience on a farm setting and also improved my research skills.

Why this experience?

The data will be used to evaluate the effects of tail biting on growing pigs.

Future Goals:

I spent most of the summer working directly on the farm. There were 240 pigs in the study and every morning I checked to make sure they were all healthy and doing well. I spent a lot of time observing the behavior of the pigs to determine a link between behavior changes and tail-biting outbreaks (tail biting is when a pig bites another’s tail enough to cause harm). If tail-biting did break out, blood samples were taken. I processed and analyzed the samples for immune and stress response. Additionally, I participated in biweekly meetings with a swine research group to learn about current issues in the swine community. I feel that the classes that I have taken at Morris (especially cell biology and microbiology) prepared me for this experience and helped me to understand how to correctly analyze blood samples.

Overall experience

There are many opportunities available at the WCROC every summer. There are research and work positions available in horticulture, swine, and dairy on a regular basis. In addition to the research I was a part of, I learned a lot about cows and horticulture through the other research assistants.

Have more questions? Contact Jessica


Tristane Paulson

I am a fourth-year biology student interested in the healthcare field so I wanted to get the kind of laboratory research experience that I know is almost essential for any graduate school studies. During Spring Semester, I applied to about 20 formal undergraduate summer research programs. Unfortunately, I was rejected from everything I applied to. One of my roommates encouraged me to talk to my professors directly. I decided to start with Professor Rachel Johnson. I was very impressed with how willing she was to help me by inviting me to work with her team of summer research assistants.

Why this experience?

In Professor Johnson’s classes I was able to learn more about her research and became very interested in the concept of using the immune system to fight off cancer.

How was it?

Each day in lab varied a little bit but the main research schedule was Monday-Wednesday-Friday. On Mondays, we would go to the animal lab in Imholte Hall to sacrifice mice and isolate lymph nodes and spleens from them. We would then bring the tissues back to the Immunology lab, mash them up, and activate CD8+ T cells (immune cells) with a solution called ConA. We would then let the cells incubate for 48 hours. On Wednesdays, we would purify the activated CD8+ T cells from the whole cell population and then let the cells incubate with plate-bound B7-H1 (a cell surface protein found on tumor cells) or control fusion protein for 48 hours in the presence of anti-CD3 (an antibody that binds to the cluster of differentiation 3 (CD3) co-receptor on CD8+ T cells). On Fridays, we would harvest the cells and prepare them for cell lysates (to be used in Western blotting) or flow cytometry.


I am still in the process of figuring out exactly what I want to do. I would like to do something medical-related since I am interested in genetics and medical conditions. I have thought about genetic counseling as a possibility but I have not explored this option yet. I plan on taking a year off after graduation to continue to explore my options and narrow down my path. This research experience allowed me to explore the possibility of research as a career. It was really cool to be able to experience what it is like to work in a research lab on a daily basis and practice troubleshooting with techniques.


Hannah Sweet

This summer I participated in Cornell University’s Summer Scholars program. The program took place in Geneva, New York at Cornell’s agricultural research station and lasted 9 weeks. Free housing was provided as well as a $4000 stipend. The Summer Scholars program is offered annually and was an amazing opportunity for me.

Why this experience?

I was looking for an insect vector of Grapevine red blotch-associated virus.

How was it?

I was able to work one on one with a grad student and her Ph.D. advisor, Marc Fuchs. I also got to work on my own project throughout the summer related to her thesis work. My research was a mixture of virology and entomology. I was looking for an insect vector of Grapevine red blotch-associated virus. I received sticky traps from a vineyard in California every two weeks, and used them to identify candidate vectors. Then I extracted insect DNA from a sample of bugs and tested for the virus through multiplex PCR. I tested all of the traps for May, 2015, and now Libby (my grad student) will continue testing for the remainder of the growing season. I also did some work with DNA barcoding, where I amplified and sequenced a cytochrome oxidase gene, and tried to use the sequence to classify insects that weren’t clear morphologically. Cornell also provided us with vans to drive around so that we could explore the surrounding area. There was a ton to do in upstate New York! The station is within a few hours of Niagara Falls, lots of hiking, waterfalls, theme parks, and vineyards.


If you are interested in attending graduate school this is a particularly good program, because they gave us a lot of helpful information throughout the summer. We were able to meet with the professors in charge of graduate school admissions at Cornell, and they had a lot of advice to give. I was pre-med going into the summer, and actually switched over to a grad school route because I liked the program so much!

Have more questions? Contact Hannah