I am an undergraduate researcher at the Brody School of Medicine. I first started in the field of research in high school observing my mentors. One mentor I observed in high school focused on the mitochondrial physiology of cardiomyocytes, while the other mentor focused on the therapeutic effects of human mesenchymal stem cells in hearts. When I first started, I knew almost nothing about any of these subjects. What little information I did know was from the biology classes I took in high school. I did not know any of the techniques used to do research, but I learned.
I formed great relationships with my two mentors and the people in their labs over time. I literally began to absorb knowledge from my mentors like a sponge, learning how to do some of the techniques by observing. My mentors showed me how to apply scientific theory through their research. I learned how important the mitochondria in heart muscle cells were for life and the energy they provided to each individual heart muscle cell for the entire heart to beat. I also learned the potential of stem cells of how they can differentiate into heart cells to replace dead heart cells after a heart attack to restore the heart’s function back to normal.
At ECU, there are tons of professors who come to the university wanting to teach and to find personal protégés. I have observed that few students at ECU take advantage of this. Since I am a student who seeks more knowledge, I advance outside conversation with many of my professors and they make time for me. Even if I’ve never met them, they make time for me. It’s that simple. I will share a few experiences that represent the vast majority.
When I was a prospective student, I made calls to each university that I was considering. At ECU, everyone took the time to answer my questions and share their thoughts.
When I visited the departmental office of the Department of Economics to add my second major, the department head, who is also a professor, called me into his office to discuss the matter. He said that he is always happy to recruit another mathematically strong student to his “BS-Quantitative” program.
One of the major benefits of the Honors College is the ability to carry out a course by “Honors-by-Contract”. The student may complete an extra assignment or presentation in a non-honors course as discussed with his/her professor in order to receive honors credit.
In the spring of 2010, I made an honors contract with Dr. Hicks who was my organic chemistry professor and the head of the Department of Chemistry. The two of us decided that I would complete a mini research project under the supervision of his graduate student Amanda Russell. I worked in the lab with Amanda for the majority of the semester. During this time, I had the opportunity to participate in research that would not normally be available for a sophomore. The research was an excellent learning experience. Unlike in laboratory classes, I was given the ability to work on a project with a purpose rather than learning lab techniques and safety. My mini project was applied to Dr. Hicks’ current research.
This September, I learned that Dr. Hicks and Amanda submitted their research to the Journal of the American Chemical Society. The paper is now in the publication process, and since my research contributed to the submission of the paper, I am listed as an author. Without the Honors College, I would not have had this opportunity. How awesome is it to be able to say you have published research as an undergraduate?
I can’t pretend that everyone hasn’t heard that ECU is a party school.
It is wrong to judge such a large university made up of so many hard-working, goal-driven students based on the small fraction of students who seem to care more about Greenville nightlife than their futures. Nevertheless, it would be foolish of me to think people will go out of their way to find goodness and truth in anything—especially a university so strongly, though wrongly, labeled with a “party school” reputation.
I’ll be completely honest; ECU’s “party school” image hindered my decision to become a Pirate because I didn’t want that reputation attached to me, as an individual. I am not a “party girl.” On any given Friday or Saturday night, I would rather go to Redbox to rent a movie and the grocery store to pick up a pint of Ben & Jerry’s with a friend than go to a house party to watch people drink the night away or go to a club downtown to pick up a friend off the floor.
I decided not to have a job during my first semester freshman year so that I could figure things out by making friends, learning the campus, etc. I ended up having a lot of free time on my hands, so I decided to start volunteering. I volunteered a little in high school with certain organizations, but I never had the chance to work with organizations in fields that I’m actually interested in. That’s why I started volunteering for Campus Recreation and Wellness and the Pitt County Animal Shelter.
One of the great things about East Carolina University and Greenville is that there are a ton of opportunities to choose from when it comes to places needing volunteers.