Williams and Knox - Outstanding New Alums
Those who know Amanda Williams agree she is highly gifted. Among her gifts are a keen intellect and the ability to listen carefully and analyze what is being said, never jumping to quick conclusions. Best of all she is a genuinely nice, down-to-earth person. Her research mentor, Professor Trish Hartzell, described Amanda as “very focused and disciplined” and also “modest and genuine.”
Prior to coming to Moscow, Amanda attended Capital High School in Boise where her childhood interest in science blossomed, especially in Advanced Placement Biology. As part of the laboratory portion of AP biology, she had the opportunity to isolate DNA. She described this experience as “very cool,” and it was the point at which she knew she was hooked on biology.
In her last year of high school, when Amanda began the process of selecting an institution for her undergraduate degree, she started her search in Oregon. She was particularly drawn to Oregon State University, but unfortunately, the non-resident tuition made OSU very expensive.
Realizing the costs involved, she began to look at schools in Idaho. When she visited the University of Idaho campus, she immediately fell in love with the setting. She liked the architecture, the residential environment and the fact that students can easily walk anywhere. She also was impressed by the welcoming atmosphere at the recruiting events. And of course, she liked the science majors offered and the honors program.
Amanda graduated summa cum laude from Idaho in May 2012 with a major in microbiology and a minor in Spanish. Undergraduate research in Professor Hartzell’s lab was one of the best aspects of her time on campus. She got involved in research via the INBRE (IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence) summer fellowship program.
Amanda said of her research experience, “I learned so much. It really helped to hammer down those concepts that are difficult to learn just in the classroom.”
Professor Hartzell said, “Amanda worked with [a soil bacterium] Myxococcus xanthus, a model organism for understanding social interactions during growth and development. She used genetic, molecular and bioinformatic techniques to determine the function of two different proteins in this organism. She determined the topology of a membrane protein called MasA, which is required for a type of motility that requires social interactions. A second project involved characterization of a novel protein called HhkY that is involved in signaling between two types of cells that Myxococcus produces during its life cycle.”
According to Professor Hartzell, Amanda performed technically difficult experiments and got good, clean results – very impressive for an undergraduate.
Another highlight of Amanda’s time in the department was the opportunity to serve as an undergraduate teaching assistant in the MMBB 255 General Microbiology lab.
She said of this experience, “I thought the lab was really interesting when I took it, and to be on the other side of it teaching, I got a sense of accomplishment when students began to grasp concepts. It was great to be able to turn people on to microbiology and know that they wanted to learn more.”
During her final semester, Amanda participated in a Medical Spanish Study Abroad Program in Costa Rica. She stayed in a home where Spanish was spoken all day, every day, and she volunteered in clinics and a children’s hospital. Although she doesn’t characterize herself as fluent in Spanish, she definitely feels that her Spanish improved from fair to very good.
Outside of her academic pursuits, Amanda was involved in several service activities. She was a Pharmacy Aide at the Snake River Community Clinic in Lewiston. This clinic serves those who are uninsured or underinsured. She also was a childcare worker at a local church. During spring 2011, she participated in an Alternative Spring Break trip to work with Habitat for Humanity in Phoenix, Ariz. Amanda was involved in several clubs including the Chemistry Club and the Phi Sigma Biological Sciences Honor Society, which she helped to resurrect. As a Chemistry Club member she did in-school chemistry demonstrations at local elementary schools and pre-schools to encourage children’s interest in science.
In the year following graduation, Amanda will be preparing and submitting her applications to medical school. Since applying to medical school is a long process, she also will complete a certified nursing assistant program at the College of Western Idaho, and then she hopes to find a job in a Boise area hospital or nursing facility.
When asked about advice to new students, Amanda said, “Get to know your professors and try to get involved as much as you can in research. Being involved in research was one of the highlights of my time at UI. It is critical to apply the knowledge you are learning in the classroom.”
In recognition of her outstanding academic career, Amanda received the College of Science Dean’s Award. Also during her undergraduate years, she earned an Honors Program Core Award, was nominated for the Outstanding Sophomore in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, and was the recipient of several scholarships.
Molly Knox is a shining example of the successful student athlete. Throughout her undergraduate program she balanced the demands of her varsity tennis schedule and team captain duties with a rigorous major in biology.
Molly grew up in West Richland, Wash. where she graduated from Hanford High School. In her early years, Molly spent a good deal of time outdoors, and she developed a love of nature. During her senior year of high school, while taking Advanced Placement biology, she began to think that biology would play a big role in her future.
She began her undergraduate education at Portland State University but transferred to Idaho as a junior. “I was in a public health program at PSU, but after a few courses I knew that biology was where my passion was. I just wanted a more thorough understanding of biological processes. As a WUE [Western Undergraduate Exchange] student at PSU, I didn’t have the option to major in biology, so I began looking at other universities in the Pacific Northwest,” she said.
She chose to transfer to the University of Idaho because “my brother is a chemical engineering student and a member of the tennis team here at Idaho. He always had great things to say about his professors and classmates, the tennis team, and campus activities. I was looking for a school where I would have an opportunity to pursue academics outside of the classroom and be a part of a strong tennis program. Idaho fit my criteria.”
Following her arrival in Moscow, Molly had the opportunity to take mammalogy, immunology, and biochemistry. These courses gave her a sample of the quality of courses that Idaho had to offer and provided her the chance to interact with outstanding faculty members.
During the summer between her junior and senior years, Molly was the recipient of a Science Undergraduate Leadership Award from the Department of Energy. This award supported a 10 week internship at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory during which students designed and completed a project under the direction of a research mentor. The culminating event was a poster session where the students presented their work to the scientists.
“The internship showed me that I really enjoyed research. I wanted to continue learning laboratory techniques and further explore the job requirements of a scientific researcher during the school year,” she explained.
During her senior year, Molly joined the research team in Professor Eva Top’s lab. Through this experience she has developed new laboratory skills and had the opportunity to work with excellent researchers. In particular, Molly has assisted postdoctoral scientist, Dr. Hirokazu Yano, on projects involving plasmid stability and transfer in bacterial hosts. “Everyone in the Top lab was great, always willing to teach me procedures and explain concepts. I’m very thankful to Eva for letting me be a part of her team.”
Molly’s excellence as a student and an athlete has been recognized through several awards. She was one of the recipients of the 2012 College of Science Dean’s Award. As a Dean’s Award recipient, she was highlighted at the college’s commencement celebration. For the past few years, she has been named an Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Scholar. She also is an AVISTA Scholar. At the end of her senior year, Molly was awarded the Mountain Region Arthur Ashe ITA Award for Leadership and Sportsmanship.
Following graduation, Molly began applying for medical schools and is currently working as a medical scribe in the Emergency Department at Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland, WA. She hopes to become a primary care physician in the future.
“As our population grows and ages I want to help fill the need for physicians in the Pacific Northwest. I am specifically interested in health promotion, working with patients to develop care plans that fit specific lifestyles to help prevent disease.”
When asked about advice for new students in the department, Molly offered the following:
“Professors at Idaho do a great job of making themselves available to students, so get involved in the department. Whether you are part of a club or working in a lab, take every opportunity you have to learn new skills. It will really prepare you for your future profession or grad school.”