Dr. Marie Nydam receives funding to complete collaborative research with Kirsten Giesbrecht ’17

Posted by Centre News in Academics, News, Research 10 Feb 2014

Undergraduate research is a staple of student experiences at Centre College, thanks to the Centre Commitment and a host of dedicated faculty members. One such faculty member is Assistant Professor of Biology Marie Nydam, the recipient of $8,700 from the National Science Foundation’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR).

EPSCoR is designed to encourage scientific research in states like Kentucky that do not have strong research presences. Nydam applied specifically for funding from ESPCoR’s Open Scholars Program, an initiative that supports promising undergraduate and graduate female and/or ethnic minority students in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields. Nydam nominated Kirsten Giesbrecht ’17, a standout biology student.

nydam_student_lab2“Kirsten is a great candidate for several reasons,” Nydam explains. “She has an impressive resume with many extra-curricular activities and exemplifies the well-rounded Centre College student. When I asked my faculty colleagues if they had any promising first-year students who might want to do research over the summer, Dr. Mike Barton gave me a single name: Kirsten’s. She was an outstanding student in his introductory biology course, and he even recruited her to tutor other students in the class.”

The EPSCoR funding will subsidize a summer trip to northern Spain, where Nydam and Giesbrecht will conduct fieldwork that furthers Nydam’s current research on self/non-self recognition in ascidians, commonly known as sea squirts.

Because Giesbrecht is a first-year student, this collaborative research opportunity is an important foundational experience in her Centre education.

“This summer experience will help her decide whether or not she enjoys the process of scientific research and whether it could be a career path for her,” Nydam explains. “Kirsten has not worked in a laboratory or engaged in field research before; this funding will allow her to participate in a scientific project from the very first step—collecting organisms in the field—to the many steps involved in genetic analysis of the organisms in the laboratory.

“Students who work consistently with me for several years are often able to co-author a scientific publication,” she continues, “which would be an excellent outcome for Kirsten.”

Nydam is particularly passionate about offering such opportunities to students at Centre.

“An important aspect of my job is allowing undergraduates the opportunity to experience research first-hand,” she says. “The only way to train successful scientists and scientific thinkers is to provide opportunities for them to engage in the scientific process.

“Centre College provides solid support for undergraduate research, which was an important reason for my decision to teach here,” Nydam adds. “I’m happy to be able to contribute to the growing focus on undergraduate research on Centre’s campus.”

Learn more about collaborative undergraduate research at Centre.

By Mariel Smith