Exceptionally Prepared Students: A Sampler


Paper, pen and ink

"Graduates who leave BYU with an internship or two under their belt are better qualified to succeed just about anywhere life may take them

The College of Biology and Agriculture makes a determined effort to offer students quality experiences that set them up for success and satisfaction throughout their lives.

 Mentored experiences—students interacting with professors outside the classroom, is prioritized; the College leads the University in proportion of students mentored. External internships are also prioritized, letting students place one foot into a career setting as they prepare to graduate. Much of this is possible because of alumni and friends who are generous in their support.

"We appreciate donations- large and small—that make mentorships and internships possible," said Dean Brown. "With such support we will be able to fully implement our classroom-to-career vision for our students."

Here's a sample of what is being done:

Lisa Higginbotham

Lisa Higginbotham in Cambridge
Lisa Higginbotham is at Cambridge as a National Institutes of Health and Cambridge University Scholar.
"Congratulations! One of your students has been selected as an NIH-Cambridge University Scholar." The letter came in March to President Samuelson from the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH)–Cambridge University Scholarship Program. Lisa Higginbotham (Monterrey, California) was among a handful of students selected nationally to carry out research as a full-time scholar at Cambridge and the NIH, and to pursue a PhD in a biomedical science area of her choice.

"Their interview was very intense," Lisa said. "You could feel the competition. They selected nine of us for Cambridge; I decided to tell Yale no." Lisa first came to BYU in 2001 for Summer Scholars' Academy. "We called it 'EFY for Nerds,'" she said. "I chose Dr. Evans' Molecular Biology. I hadn't had any of that stuff but I loved it, and I knew right then what I wanted to study."

"The BioAg College has been awesome," Lisa said. "There is so much focus on undergraduates—research especially. Dr. Seegmiller encouraged me, and gave me the freedom to design my own project. Dr. Kooyman gave me one-on-one training on how to make a transgenic mouse. I was so excited when I had my first real go at the process."

Joseph Schlegel

Joseph Schlegel
Joseph Schlegel coordinates a seminar in Kiev, Ukraine, as an intern with the international Food Products Association.

He found Joseph Schlegel, an undergraduate from Provo—who had served a mission in the Ukraine— majoring in both food science and Russian. Taylor offered Schlegel an internship with FPA's Research and Education Foundation in Washington, D.C. and sent him to Kiev.

Schlegel worked closely with universities that host FPA seminars, known as Better Process Control Schools. It was an opportunity to conduct one of these seminars that took him to Kiev.

"My internship helped me see how what is taught as curriculum is applied in the industry," Schlegel said. "Internships are the best way for students to really learn their fields of study. Prior to my internship, I knew far less about food science in the world community; now my eyes are opened to the varied opportunities available to me in this field."

Cindy Niederhauser

Cindy Niederhauser with professor Laura Bridgewater,br/>Cindy Niederhauser, right, conducts research related to osteoarthritis with BYU mentor Laura Bridgewater.
In the future people might stand a little taller, thanks to the work of Cindy Niederhauser (Gilmer, Texas) mentored in the College. Niederhauser's research with cartilage tissue and its structural protein, collagen, will help scientists better understand osteoarthritis and related diseases, possibly leading to new therapies or cures for those who suffer with these debilitating ailments.

Niederhauser graduated in April with a bachelor's degree in molecular biology. She is setting up a new home in Kansas where her husband is teaching biology. As a student she was mentored by not one, but three professors—Laura Bridgewater, Robert Seegmiller,
and Sterling Sudweeks. "Participating in the expansion of knowledge is exciting, and working in a community of scientists was personally beneficial," she said. From her mentors she learned procedures and logistics, but, most important, she learned that conceptual and critical thinking, not memorization and regurgitation, are the ways of a scientist.

"I was able to make a tiny difference in the world because I had the opportunity," Cindy said. "Bringing science to the students who are most excited about it is, in my opinion, the best way to get real discoveries. Give the students a chance to further science; you never know what may happen."

Daniel Fuja

Daniel Fuja with BYU students
Daniel Fuja coaches students in BYU’s cancer research lab. As an undergraduate Fuja completed three off-campus internships and published two scholarly papers.
Attending four universities in three years is generally not an impressive record, but in Daniel Fuja's case it most certainly is. As an undergraduate, Daniel (Provo, Utah) participated in biomedical internships at the University of California, Irvine (2003); Baylor College of Medicine (2004); and Harvard Medical School (2005).

Fuja received his BSc in microbiology from BYU in April. He is now pursuing a master's degree at BYU with Dr. Kim O'Neill. He plans to obtain an MD/PhD and pursue a career in biomedical research.

Daniel has published two refereed research papers and coaches students in BYU's cancer research lab. "Interning helped me determine which subjects I wanted to research," he said. "Cancer and tumor biology have emerged as the areas most fascinating to me." He is very grateful for his internship experiences and hopes that many other students are able to participate.

"Graduates who leave BYU with an internship or two under their belt are better qualified to succeed just about anywhere life may take them," he says. "My internships have certainly done that for me."