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March 16, 2016

Sarah MacLachlan: Undergraduate Research

March 16, 2016

Sarah MacLachlan is a senior from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania majoring in zoology and is an MSU Beckman Scholar and College of Natural Science Dean’s Research Scholar

Michigan State University has so much to offer to students who chose to come here. When I first came to campus, I was nervous to find out what was in store. The only thing I knew about college was that it was going to be very different than high school. During my first semester I made life-long friends and jumped right into academics.

I had heard a lot about undergraduate research, but was nervous to reach out to professors and put myself out there. In the second semester of freshman year, I began to learn more about specific research happening at MSU and started to apply to a few positions. During my sophomore year, I found out about Kay Holekamp and her amazing research on spotted hyenas. I quickly became fascinated with her research and sent her an email to inquire if I could volunteer for her. She accepted me into her lab and I began participating in undergraduate research.

A few weeks after I began my research, I was told about a program for students called the Beckman Scholars Program. It was the first year that MSU offered this program and I was very interested. The program provided funding to the chosen students for two years of research. I applied and was elated when I found out that I was one of three students chosen to be an MSU Beckman Scholar.

During the past two years, the program has given me so many opportunities and I have learned about science and my career interests. I have been able to discover a great deal about the process of science from start to finish. The program allowed me to have my own research project; I presented my research at conferences at MSU and all over the country. Creating a poster and presenting scientific research has taught me to communicate very efficiently and to relay complex information in an easily understandable way.

I also have met many people in my field and made friends who have similar interests in research.  The other students in this program and I meet weekly and talk about new publications, our projects and our struggles with research. We all learn from each other and can support each other. The Beckman Scholars Program has enhanced my education and allowed me to experience research at a high level.