I always knew in high school that I loved all things science, but Ouachita’s science department took my knowledge and love of science to an entirely new level. One of my favorite parts of being a science major was the opportunity to do summer research. When I say research, I don’t just mean researching online and writing a paper. I mean real, hands-on research in a lab with a professor, working on a project that you are both passionate about. How awesome is that?!
This summer I had the privilege of working with Dr. Joe Bradshaw, a chemistry professor. We studied MRI contrast agents. Contrast agents are given to patients when they undergo MRIs and enhance the image obtained, allowing the doctor to confidently give an accurate diagnosis. Our goal was to make our own contrast agent that could be given to patients when they go into their local doctor or hospital for an MRI.
One of the reasons research at Ouachita appealed to me was how applicable it is to the real world. Other professors on campus are studying possible treatment for different types of cancer, how to extract antibiotics from different bacteria and even going electrofishing to study the water quality of several surrounding rivers around Arkadelphia. These are real-world problems that students are being given the opportunity to help solve, and the J.D. Patterson Summer Research Program is what makes this possible at Ouachita. The hands-on, applicable learning available to undergrads at Ouachita truly is like no other.
I completed all of my research during the summer, and I was in Dr. Bradshaw’s lab every day. It is the coolest feeling to be able to work on such a big project with your professor in an actual research lab. This wasn’t theoretical; I wasn’t reading about problems, or saying how I would complete the project if I were given the chance. This was my chance, and I was so excited to take full advantage of it! Not only was my research applicable to the real world, it gave me the skills in a professional laboratory that I will use far beyond my years at Ouachita.
In addition to lab skills, I learned how to analyze results, present my project at various research conferences and relate my work to other students’ work at other universities. Throughout the next few months, I (and other Ouachita research students) will present my research at three different regional and national research conferences. These conferences bring together students from dozens of universities and help us learn about what is going on in the research world. All of the presentations we attend are critical follow-up steps to the research we have already completed or are still working on. We receive feedback, learn about new topics and network with students and professors from other schools.
While the educational aspect of this summer was fantastic, our professors also wanted to make sure students had fun outside of lab, too. We had weekly potluck dinners, where the students and professors met up, ate dinner and just enjoyed each other’s company. We also had a picnic at the Eubanks’ home, where we paddle boarded, kayaked, canoed, swam, ate lots of yummy food and made new friends. It was the perfect summer night! After our last day of research, faculty members took us on a day trip to float the Caddo River. Ouachita professors care so much for their students and have proven time and time again that they are committed not only to bettering their students’ education, but positively impacting them as people and better preparing them for life after college.
Were it not for the J.D. Patterson Summer Research Program, I would never have had the opportunity to work in a lab and prepare myself for post-grad life in such a unique way. The hands-on learning opportunities are some of my favorite parts of this university. I enjoyed everything about this summer and cannot wait to see how this incredible program impacts other students!
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