After a month of looking for a job, I am finally employed.

I applied virtually everywhere. If a place had a “We’re hiring” sign, you can bet I walked in and got an application. And if a place didn’t, I probably walked in and asked for one anyway.

My searching finally paid off with an email to Dr. Feng Qu, a researcher at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC). I’m now an intern in his lab, assisting with research on using recombinant DNA to modify the genome of Glycine max to make them naturally resistant to Aphis glycines Matsumura. In layman’s terms, Dr. Qu is trying to change the DNA of soybean plants so they won’t be eaten by their main pest, soybean aphids.

Don’t worry — a year ago, that didn’t make much sense to me either.

But because of the biology classes I took my freshman year at Gannon, not only do I have a job, but I understand the research I’m helping to perform. Freshman biology majors at GU take two core biology classes: Molecular and Cellular Biology in the fall and Animal Form and Function in the spring.

In Molecular and Cellular Biology, students study cell structure, respiration and reproduction, as well as some basic chemistry of life. Lab work includes lots of cell examination under microscopes. One other experiment we performed was DNA electrophoresis, the same technique you see on CSI to see if a person’s DNA sample matches a sample found at a crime scene. I’ll actually be using DNA electrophoresis in my work at the OARDC to examine the DNA of the plants we modify.

In Animal Form and Function, students examine taxonomy and body systems of animals, such as circulatory, respiratory and nervous systems, to name a few. In the lab, students dissect a fetal pig over the course of the semester to get a better look at structures, and even perform some tests on themselves. My favorite was the cardiovascular lab, where we got to run around the halls of Zurn to analyze our heart rate and also get our blood type (I’m O positive.)

Even after one year of college, I can see how my education can be applied to the real world. It has already helped me obtain a job in which I can use my knowledge to make real advances in science. I look forward to both the classes I will take in the years to come and using what I learn outside of the classroom environment. And I begin using that knowledge today, at my new job!

Wish me luck,

Matt 🙂

To see how other students use what they learn outside of school, check out Tyler Babcock’s blog, The Erieite.