2015 REU Newsletter

We chose careers in education because we love working with students, and summers bring us a special opportunity and special rewards. How so? Wouldn’t we rather write papers and focus on our graduate students and postdoctoral fellows? Not necessarily. The responsibilities and rewards are different depending on where our students are in terms of education and professional development. In the case of graduate students and postdocs, our role is more about helping them succeed in their chosen path, whereas with the undergraduates we are also helping determine their path. For most undergraduates in our REU, this is their first opportunity to do meaningful research. They bring a lot of energy to the lab. They tend to come from smaller schools and, like the proverbial kid in a candy store, they really appreciate the resources that The University of Iowa provides. In short, a summer research experience can have an impact that far exceeds the mere 10 weeks of the program. Being able to bring these opportunities to our REU participants and helping to ensure that they get the most out of them is richly rewarding.

David Weiss and Linda McCarter
Co-Directors, REU in Microbiology at The University of Iowa

REU Report

Our summer program continues to thrive, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the number of applications we receive. This continues to grow and for the current summer approached 400! Here are the participants in our summer 2015 REU. 

  • KeiAuyndria Edwards, Barry University, Miami Shores, FL
  • Stephen Jackson, University of Maine, Orono, ME
  • Troy King, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK
  • Hilary McLeland-Wieser, Macalester College, St Paul, MN
  • Bridget Moricz, Lawrence Technological University, Southfield, MI
  • John Reed, Hawkeye Community College, Waterloo, IA
  • Emilio Rodriguez, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA
  • Theresa White, Towson University, Towson, MD
  • Yifeng Zhang, Luther College, Decorah, IA

Here we are at a recent field trip to Integrated DNA Technologies:

Taking the Pulse of the Program

We asked several of the students in this summer’s REU, “What has been the biggest surprise for you this summer?” Here is what they had to say.

I honestly can say that I didn't expect to have as much fun as I did. For me, I had the perfect combination of enjoyment from science and with my fellow REU participants.
-Troy King

One of the biggest surprises for me this summer is how helpful the mentors are with non-research issues.
-Theresa White

There's more to Iowa than corn. There are rivers, restaurants, an REU family, an experience in the lab that I'll never forget, and most importantly frozen yogurt.
-Bridget Moricz

My biggest surprise was how easy it was to get accustomed to the campus and if you have questions anyone and everyone are there to help you out.
-John Reed

A Nod to our Co-mentors

Each REU student and project is unique. There is no substitute for engaging students one-on-one. This is possible because REU participants typically work shoulder-to-shoulder with a graduate student or postdoctoral fellow who serves as co-mentor. These people a critical to the success of the summer program because they (unlike the professors) are engaged in actual bench work on a daily basis. They are also closer to the undergraduates in terms of age and educational attainment. With that in mind, we’d like to share with you some of the milestones our co-mentors have reached in the past year.

Matt Jorgenson completed his PhD in David Weiss' lab and is now a postdoc in Oklahoma.

Carolyn Ibberson successfully defended her PhD thesis in Alex Horswill's lab and will soon move to a postdoctoral position in Texas.

Sarah Bahr completed her PhD in John Kirby's lab and is interviewing for postdoctoral positions.

Dr. Nia Madison, a postdoc in Chioma Okeoma's lab, has been in the news. Nia was featured in a national campaign by L'Oreal USA for Women in Science and received a prestigious award for her research.

Wilmara Salgado-Pabón, formerly a postdoctoral researcher in Pat Schlievert's lab, has moved on to bigger and better things. She is now an Assistant Professor in our department! Wilmara also recently won an award for her research on how Staphylococcus aureus contributes to heart disease.

Mahmood Bilal completed his PhD in Jon Houtman's lab. He has stayed on in Jon's lab as a postdoctoral fellow while he applies for clinical chemistry and clinical immunology fellowship positions.

Jessica Hastie completed her PhD in Craig Ellermeier's lab. She is completing some projects in Craig's lab and applying for postdoctoral positions with the US government.

Farrah Steinke completed her PhD in Howard Xue's lab and is now a postdoctoral fellow at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Career Advice: Join a professional society

No matter whether you are a student or far along in your career, we all benefit from mentoring. Who are your mentors? If you can’t answer that question, you probably need to invest more effort in cultivating these relationships. A good place to start is the faculty with whom you have trained. These people know you and are committed to seeing you succeed. When was the last time you sent your former REU mentor an email updating them on your progress? Don’t be shy! 

But there are other places to find career advice. One of the best is to join a professional society, such as The American Society for Microbiology (http://www.asm.org/). A student or postdoc can join ASM for only $22 per year. One of the benefits is access to job listings posted on the ASM website. Another is a monthly journal called Microbe Magazine, which recently started a regular column called Microbe Mentor. Advertised as a source of “career advice from microbiologists who have ‘been there and done that,’” Microbe Mentor provides a forum where microbiologists from a variety of backgrounds address questions about how to advance your career. Last month the topic was whether a job applicant should divulge their marital status. The July issue addresses how to structure a CV to suit industry.

What if you don’t think of yourself as a microbiologist? No problem. Just about every scientific discipline has a society that will connect you to colleagues and provide access to important information. Examples include: The American Society of Cell Biology , The American Association of Immunologists, The Biochemical Society, and the granddaddy of them all, The American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Alumni news

One of the rewards of directing the REU is getting to see what becomes of the talented students who pass through our program. Here is a rundown on NSF-funded participants from 2012-2014. Let us know of any omissions or errors. And please, we’d love to hear from you. Keep in touch and let us know what is going on in your life, scientifically and otherwise.

2012. Chris Bolden is in a PhD program in Arkansas. For more details, see his entry under 2013. (Chris is a rare two-time participant in our REU.)Amber Ford is in the PhD program in the Department of Microbiology here at UI. She is working in Rich Roller’s lab and just passed her comprehensive exam. Congrats, Amber! Lauren Gentles is a postbac at NIH. Caroline Gillis is in the PhD program in Molecular Microbiology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. She was recently awarded as NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. Way to go, Caroline!Christian Gomez is in a PhD program in Molecular Biosciences at The University of Kansas. Daimon Hardy was a middle school instructor with Clayton County Public Schools (Georgia) through Teach for America after undergrad; this summer he is moving to Cleveland to work as a general management trainee at McMaster-Carr Supply Company. Maria Morabemust have really loved her summer in our REU because she has now joined our PhD program. Maria is doing her thesis work in Linda’s lab and David is on her committee, so it’s no exaggeration to say that we see a lot of Maria. Oh, one more thing—she passed comps this spring. Congratulations!Casey Sondgeroth finished a post-bac certificate program and is currently coordinating and teaching some pre-college programs while she studies for the MCAT (and possibly the GRE). Jessica Lister is getting an MS in Microbiology here at UI. Hunter Woodley taught English in Japan for a year and is now taking classes in preparation for graduate school in Japanese Studies. Jessica and Hunter are engaged. Congratulations to them!

2013. Levi Blue is a research Assistant Scientist at a contract research organization testing the effectiveness of vaccines; he is also preparing to take GRE. Chris Bolden is in a PhD program in Interdisciplinary Biomedical Sciences at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.David Cooper returned to his old stomping grounds: he is now in the Biology PhD program at The University of Iowa. Brittney Dinkel is now in a PhD program in Immunology at The Mayo Clinic. We are looking forward to seeing more of Gabriela Kaus. She will starting the Microbiology PhD program at The University of Iowa this fall. Courtney Moore is in medical school at the Campbell University School of Osteopathic Medicine. After completing a postbac program at the University of Michigan, Krizia Pérez will be joining the PhD program in Microbiology at The University of Wisconsin at Madison. She is one of 3 former REU participants entering that PhD program this fall! (Should we be charging a finder’s fee?) Linnea Peterson-Bunker is in a PhD program in Molecular & Cellular Biology at University of Washington. Mayowa Balogun is in the Interdisciplinary Biomedical PhD Program at University of Pittsburgh. Lauren Gentles is already mentioned in 2012.

2014. Laura Alexander and Lindsey Bohr are entering the PhD program in Microbiology at The University of Wisconsin, Madison.Samantha Freedman will be starting a PhD program in Immunology at The University of Iowa this fall; we look forward to seeing her again!Sarah Castro is joining a one-year postbac program at The University of Chicago. Trevor Griesman is also entering a postbac program, this one at the NIH. Is it just a coincidence that two REU participants who trained in Chioma Okeoma’s lab are both going to be postbacs at NIH? Kouevi Kodjovi is starting the MS program in Medical Laboratory Science at University of Tennessee Health Sciences. Yvetane Moreau will graduate this coming year and plans to apply to PhD programs in infectious diseases.Jacob Brendl graduated and is applying for lab tech positions and studying for the GRE. Molly Bunkofske will start the PhD program in Microbiology at the University of Georgia this Fall. Steven Lister will graduate from Luther College next Spring.