The Passion I Didn’t See Coming
When first attending Arcadia, I had my eyes set on achieving admission to a Physician Assistant program. As a Biology major, I was excited to pursue classes in Human Anatomy, Physiology, and Biochemistry. Little did I realize that being a Biology major unlocked a fascination for biological science that I never knew existed.
Entering my first year, I was taking introductory biology and chemistry courses like many other students. I will be honest, my initial goal for these classes was to earn the highest grade possible for the most successful graduate application. But, as the semester progressed and I was introduced to new topics on metabolic pathways, evolution, bodily systems, and new species, I began to build curiosity. This curiosity quickly snowballed into a deep interest in the biological sciences to the point where I was reading extra information from our textbooks.
For my first two years at Arcadia, I was very content and happy being a Biology major. But one day I was approached by my professor, Dr. Sheryl Smith. She asked if I was interested in volunteering in her developmental toxicology lab. I admit I was terrified at first. I didn’t think I possessed the courage or the academic knowledge to work in one of my professor’s labs, even if it was just doing the basics. As time went on and I learned more about the opportunity, I became extremely excited and interested in the work she had done and the work she was planning to do.
One of the most amazing things about Arcadia is the opportunities that you would not find at a larger school. In many other programs where a class is taught in a lecture hall with close to a hundred students, you do not get the chance to build a personal relationship with your professor. Arcadia’s low class size has allowed me to build strong academic relationships with my professors. This allows professors to understand your interests and know your personal and academic goals for the future, too.
I have now been working in the developmental toxicology lab under Dr. Smith for over a year and the experience I have gained is more than I ever thought I would do in my college career. I have studied the developmental effects of BPA on drosophila metabolism in a multitude of environments. I have also learned the basics of drosophila husbandry, larval collection, western blots, RT-qPCR, and so much more. These techniques are usually something you get to do once or twice during a class, but this lab has provided me the chance to practice procedures and understand the human and technical errors that can occur.
After getting started with the lab basics and shadowing my fellow peer, Ashley McDougall, I had the chance to sit down with Dr. Smith and develop my senior thesis. I researched several articles and using data from the lab, I decided to investigate the developmental effects of BPA on drosophila lipid metabolism. During my senior year, I have been collecting data and conducting research to create a final paper showcasing the achievements of our lab as a whole.
Taking part in this lab has not only improved my knowledge of biological research, but has been a fantastic way to practice interpersonal skills like communication, time management, leadership, and so much more. I am truly thankful for the opportunity and experience I have had and would highly recommend it if you have the chance. This lab experience and what I have gained from it is a perfect example of how Arcadia has helped me grow as a person and in academics. Sometimes the experiences you don’t see coming are the most enriching of all.