Remembering Research Before There Was COVID-19

Kylie Davis 

I have always been interested in science and, in high school, I discovered scientific research. During Wildcat Week at ACU, I went to a job fair and found the Biology Research Club writing down the names of those interested in doing Biology research. I quickly got my name on the list and was soon contacted by Dr. Brokaw. In his lab, I have measured specimens and performed PCR’s, gel electrophoresis, and DNA sequence editing for the plants in Mentzelia section Trachyphytum. We also used principal components analysis (PCA) to show the relationship between a species and its phenotype. 

During the semester we worked weekly on laboratory research and creating a presentation poster. I presented our research findings alongside Meghan Moten in February 2020 at the Annual Meetings of the Texas Academy of Science in Nacogdoches, Texas. The meeting was a fantastic place to present our work and see the presentations of the other attendees in their areas of scientific research. Both Destiny, our research tutor, and Dr. Brokaw were very helpful in getting both involved in research and preparing me for my first poster presentation. 

I was disappointed that we could not continue research after the presentation because of the coronavirus outbreak because I was looking forward to doing more research and getting more experience. However, we submitted a digital version of our poster to the 2020 ACU Virtual Undergraduate Research Festival and won the title of Outstanding Presentation! I love learning new things and researching in a lab. My career goal is to be a scientific researcher so this research opportunity was very enlightening for me, and I am excited to jump into more research in the fall! 

Meghan Moten

Wow! I have never thought I would be here. My incoming spring semester had ended up being an absolute blast and it’s all thanks to my opportunity to do research this semester. It had all started when one of my friends had reached out and persuaded me to do research for the remainder of my fall semester. Naturally, I asked her about her experiences in research, whether it was truly fun or not, and lastly, about the requirements. My friend went above and beyond to tell me how fun, exciting, interesting, non time consuming, and amazing it was. The way she put it, it would be an all out bummer if I chose not to be a part of it. So like anybody who is influenced by someone’s reasonable passion, I decided to try it out. 

While going into the lab for the first time, I did not know what to expect. I was unaware of how long this team of people were working on their research, and I certainly did not want to do anything that would slow their progress, but it was the exact opposite of my worries that happened. First, we were greeted by our lovely student mentor who reassured all of us that we were going to do fine and that it was her goal to lead us every step of the way while ensuring that our head mentor Dr. Brokaw was satisfied. It was from that moment on that I had felt a connection to research and had started to believe in the capabilities that God has entrusted me with. This later led me to accept the offer that Dr. Brokaw has made me and my fellow peers to engage ourselves in a class dedicated to research. 

I have had the honor to study the characteristics of the unidentified voucher plant specimens of the Mentzelia section Trachyphytum that had come from the Southern Coasts of California. My lab group and I had spent countless hours measuring the different components of these voucher specimens with our digital calipers, inserting our data into a nicely organized google sheet, and later making a Principle Component Analysis or PCA, for short, to help us get a better understanding of how these morphological characters of the Mentzelia specimens relate to one another. Later on, I had the opportunity to present my research at Stephen F. Austin University for the Texas Academy of Science conference that the school was hosting.

From a very young age, I always asked the questions that not too many people around me were interested about. One thing I love about research and about science, in general, is the ability for me to feed my curious nature. What makes research even more enlightening is that I am discovering these different types of phenomena before my eyes, and with a bit of guidance, can end up making a completely new discovery. As a former drill team/dance team member, I was well acquainted with the idea of working as a team in terms of creating beautiful art, but from my research experience, I got to see how well established a team can be in the foundation of STEM disciplines. My team and I had done a great job working together and critiquing one another to help us effectively reach our goals. Research is an interesting concept. In my opinion, it is an art that seeks to learn and inform the world around us just like any other art form. As I mentioned before, I had a blast doing research this semester and I encourage anyone who is considering to at least try it out.

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