Biology: REU Program welcomes Waynesburg University biology major

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Carolyn-Highland.JPGPriority application offers a number of perks. For Carolyn Highland, a junior biology major with minors in chemistry and English, a 4.0 GPA and a bevy of leadership roles at Waynesburg University, those perks come as a result of hard work. When she applied early to Miami University’s Chemistry & Biochemistry summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Program, she was accepted almost immediately and had the opportunity to tailor her summer internship to her unique interests.

“Although most of the other students in my program worked as assistants to graduate student researchers for the summer, I was given my own project,” Highland said. “I examined quantities and structures of tannins, or plant-produced macromolecules, in several species of Juniper plants.”

She was selected from a pool of thousands nationwide to participate in an (REU) Program, an initiative sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF).Programs pair students with professionals in the field of science based on research interests.

“Carolyn’s project required her to learn new concepts and new techniques.  Learning how to approach a new area of study and integrate new information with things learned in a formal classroom setting is an important professional accomplishment,” said Dr. Ann E. Hagerman, Highland’s internship supervisor and research professor at Miami University. “She is a good student and her background is quite strong.  She is well prepared to continue her studies.”

The undergraduate research associate spent 40 to 50 hours a week in Miami University’s science lab, immersed in her research of Tannins, which exhibit antioxidant properties for human health. She hopes to continue her research after graduating from Waynesburg University and to earn a doctorate in biochemistry.

Highland, who balances her academics and Waynesburg University biology club membership with involvement in Student Senate at the vice president level, said that Waynesburg’s mission of faith, serving and learning played an enormous role at her internship.

“It is very, very important that scientists record and report their results with absolute honesty and respect the earth and its inhabitants,” Highland said. “Sometimes, doing the most ethical thing in research is not the easiest, but Waynesburg teaches students to be honest and do what’s right, no matter what.”

Those teachings, coupled with rigorous Waynesburg coursework and a significant internship opportunity, prepared Highland to begin her junior year, validated her career goals and introduced her to a new level of analysis.

“The ability to perform an experiment is important in research, but only secondary to the ability to think through and understand the reasons for its potential outcomes,” Highland said. “The excellent classroom and laboratory instruction I received at Waynesburg combined with the REU internship gave me the opportunity to begin transforming my way of thinking from that of a student to that of a scientist.”