The Last Word: Commanding Performance

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Drake students own their science. Whether measuring the incidence of supraventricular arrhythmias and atrial connexin40 expression,* synthesizing alpha amino acids via an organometallic reaction pathway,* or any myriad of authentic, new scientific contributions, our students are given the opportunity to identify their interests, collaborate with a mentor, and express themselves through the discovery that unfolds. When wonder reveals itself, passion ensues.

The curiosity of wanting to know how our world works propels Drake students along the journey of many different science courses, enlightening them and igniting infectious enthusiasm for further exploration into the scientific disciplines. The Drake Undergraduate Science Collaboration Institute (DUSCI) offers hands-on experiential learning that not only creates a drive in students: It is driven by students. Created as a platform for interdisciplinary exchanges, DUSCI has grown into a dynamic unit that promotes and coordinates undergraduate research endeavors probing biology, chemistry, physics, environmental science, pharmaceutical science, neuroscience, computer science, mathematics, psychology, astronomy, and science education. Students themselves identify not only their interests but also the faculty members with whom they’ll partner. Inquiries are crafted by students. Research is conducted by students.

Awareness of research opportunities is expanded by faculty and guest speaker presentations in the Drake University Science Colloquium Series—also steered by students. The success of their research is celebrated during the annual Drake University Conference on Undergraduate Research in the Sciences (DUCURS), when students present their research before a large multidisciplinary audience—a guest list assembled by the students, with valuable feedback and connections in mind.

The learning goes both ways: Faculty members learn from current students, who become valuable resources—contributing ideas, expanding conversations, and eventually becoming mentors themselves. Drake students visit local schools and summer camps to talk about their research. These are our University’s ambassadors of science, providing peer support and building bridges for the next generation.

By creating independent thinkers and strong leaders, DUSCI prepares students for any eventuality. While we can’t know exactly what tomorrow holds, we can help students see the possibilities, see themselves in the future. DUSCI’s Life After Drake Series brings successful alumni back to campus to celebrate their professional accomplishments as well as to network with current students. That’s when our undergraduates might discover how a biology major can lead to a career in criminal investigation or how a physics and mathematics double major can take one to Los Alamos National Laboratory.

As the scientific landscape continues to evolve, the DUSCI program is empowering Drake students to be key leaders in shaping the science of tomorrow. Triple major Rosalie Sterner, as’13, graduated in May and headed to Rochester, Minn., to work toward her M.D./Ph.D. at Mayo Medical School. She carries with her experience that began in my laboratory her freshman year and evolved into work presented at conferences, a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, and admittance to the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB). She’s arrived at Mayo with skill and insight that can help her one day deliver better patient treatment.

Through Drake’s undergraduate research experiences, our students equip themselves to take advantage of and compete for the many opportunities the world has to offer.

—John Gitua, Associate Professor of Chemistry, current director of DUSCI

 

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