Allie's Research Trip to Honduras

When you are young your life experiences will influence the path you take on becoming who you are meant to be. Most individuals will be able to pinpoint the experience that impacted their future decisions. For me, there have been several experiences that have led up to me researching in Roatan, Honduras.

The first experience that led to this decision came from my Dad. When I was eleven, my Dad was in a car accident. He needed two challenging surgeries, and miraculously the first was successful. However, due to complications after the last surgery, my father died from a pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lungs). From this experience l knew that I was called to be involved in the medical field.

Upon entering high school I was allowed to expand and explore my passion for science and medicine through the classes I took. In my first biology class I was introduced to an individual science experiment. The outline for the experiment allowed us to choose the independent variable we were interested in testing. I tested “The Effect of Lake Water on Wisconsin Fast Plants,” in which I compared the differences and effects of distilled water versus lake water on the growth and development of fast plants. This experiment had a simple design and concept, which allowed me to develop the fundamental skills and passion of researching.

My sophomore year of high school I faced some new medical conditions that still affect my life today. It took about a year to figure out what these were. These chronic medical conditions gave me a different perspective on the medical field, one as a patient who was scared and confused and just wanted to know what was going on. However, it also exposed me to the side of the doctor and the frustration of running several tests to find nothing and having to try and help a patient.

Despite the challenges I faced with my medical conditions, I continued taking classes that allowed me to continue to pursue the science field. My junior year I was able to design and perform my own research experiment. I tested “The Effect of Fear on Memory,” in which I examined physiological data collected when individuals were scared. From this I was able to learn more about how to research, overcome challenges, change my perspective when experiments went wrong, and be resourceful. The most important insight I gained was in the world of researching. This experiment expanded my skills and prepared me for a senior class called “Independent Study Scientific Research”.

At this point in my life I was thinking about my future a lot: what I wanted to do, career wise; where I went to college; and where I was going to take myself in life. Starting my senior year I had wanted to be a neonatal PA, and I wanted my final high school research project to correlate with this, while also challenging myself. I decided to test “The Effect of Gabapentin on Dugesia tigrina’s Nervous System After Forced Split Reproduction” in my senior project. I took my results to the Regional Science Fair and advanced to the State Science Fair. Dr. Adam Case was one of the judges of my experiment at the state fair. After receiving “The Top Physiological Award,” "The Top Female Biology Project", "U.S. Outstanding Science or Engineering Project" and qualifying for the national science fair, Dr. Case informed me of the Summer Undegraduate Research Program, and suggested I applied. Immediately I knew this was something I wanted to do.
Coming into college I knew I wanted to take a research class to help advance my skills further and to prepare me for my future experiences in the scientific field. I took a biology inquiry class that was based on bacteriophages, with Dr. Jerald Bricker. In this class I isolated and purified bacteriophage Kohlio. I had never done this type of challenging work before, but I embraced the challenge. The process involved failure after failure, which led me to acquiring the knowledge that with researching and experiments, the failures are just as important as the successes, and every aspect is valuable in scientific study. With each challenging step I learned more about the type of work I was doing and more about my capabilities with research.

Last summer, I had the privilege of working in Dr. Case’s lab in the Summer Undergraduate Research Program. It was an amazing opportunity that challenged me and broaden my experiences and knowledge about the research world. For me it reconfirmed my love of research, and it is something that I hope to be a part of again. My experiment in the lab was the examine the effects of psychological stress on the immune system. It has been observed that patients with psychological stress disorders, like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), have increased risk for autoimmune diseases and other immune system disorders. My specific job was to measure the levels of cytokines (proteins produced by the immune system) in the blood from normal and stress samples.
This upcoming May I now have the amazing opportunity of traveling to Roatan, Honduras. I will be taking a Marine Biology class this next semester that will allow me to develop a basic knowledge of several different ocean ecosystems. It will be a two week research trip that is a part of the class. The first week will be spent exploring and interacting with the marine life on the island of Roatan, as well as developing an experiment for me to conduct in the second week. This campaign will help raise the money needed for me to travel to the Honduras.

My passion for research and science comes from both a personal tragedy and a genuine interest and experience in the process and challenge of it. I have received many opportunities to expand upon my researching experience, each of which has helped broaden and cultivate my skills as a researcher. I am devoted to research and I would be priveleged to continue expanding through a Marine Biology Research trip to the Honduras.

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Organizer

Allie Kohl 
Organizer
Central City, NE
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