Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Sciences
During the summer of sophomore year, I received an email that changed the course of my college career; an invitation to join TRIO STEM. As a first-generation college student, I was never fully aware of the programs, scholarships, and opportunities out there for students. I didn’t have someone to cheer me on into the next big adventure, but as soon as I entered TRIO STEM I began applying to programs that would take me to new places. With the support of TRIO, I made it through the devastating loss of a dear professor and pushed myself to continue following my passions in life, which just happen to be microbiology and honeybees.
In the summer of 2017, I become an undergraduate research fellow at the University of Texas at Austin through the Summer Undergraduate Program for Experiential Research (SUPER). I worked in the lab of Dr. Nancy Moran studying the honeybee gut microbiota. This experience allowed me to become well acquainted with the literature, techniques, and projects associated with the honeybee gut microbiome. My research in the Moran lab involved collaborating with a graduate student to study host specificity of the gut microbes of a corbiculate bee. Specifically, we were investigating two specific bacteria found in the gut of social bees (honeybees and bumblebees), Lactobacillus Firm-4 and Firm-5. The goal of this project was to determine if the Lactobacillus strains from the bumblebee could colonize honeybees, and whether they could provide protection against hive pathogens. This project pushed me out of my comfort zone and forced me to dive into the literature to learn new protocols. Although it was a short internship, this experience allowed me to learn new skills and grow as an independent scientist. I learned new molecular techniques, how to perform bee gut dissections, and refined my skills in experimental design. But perhaps the most valuable skill I learned was how to be more self-directed in my research. Along with the lab skills I acquired, I had the chance to present my research to my cohort during the summer and also to a larger group of engineering students. This proved challenging at first, but it made me realize that understanding your audience is key when presenting research. At the end of the program, I not only realized my interest in studying the honeybee gut microbiome, but also in pursuing my doctorate in microbiology and evolutionary biology.
The mentors and staff in TRIO STEM are people that I look up to every day as inspirations for my future goals of helping others. I want other TRIO students to know that following your passion IS POSSIBLE. I did not come into Grand Valley with the hopes of becoming a honeybee scientist, but as a senior this year I am proud of myself for chasing this dream and turning them into a reality. As of next Fall, I will start my Ph.D. programs at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in Environmental Health Sciences and Microbiology to continue my research on the honeybee gut microbiota. I am so grateful to have TRIO STEM in my life and will always advocate for a student support service like this.
Megan graduated from GVSU April 29, 2018, and was accepted into the University of North Carolina at Greensboro's Environmental Health Sciences Doctoral Program for the 2018 school year. She has moved there and is ready to begin her new journey. Congratulations Megan!