Outstanding Undergraduate Research Award: Elizabeth Brandon
Awarded to a graduating senior who has performed outstanding original research in science or mathematics.
My name is Elizabeth Brandon.
I am from Boise, ID.
Why did you choose UI?
I did not choose UI initially, because I had a scholarship for running track at another university. However, I realized that I wanted more of a research-based education, so I decided to check out the schools back in my home state. I found that UI not only had the best resources for microbiology and virology research, but it also had a beautiful campus in a great location surrounded by wonderful people. I suppose you can say I accidentally became a Vandal, but it was the best accident that ever happened to me.
My favorite class was microbiology and the microbiology lab (of course), taught by Dr. Scott Minnich and Prof. Tim Steffens.
How can I choose? I loved biochemistry from Dr. Martina Ederer, immunology from Dr. Tanya Miura, and microscopic anatomy from Dr. Onesmo Balemba.
All of the microbiology labs were my favorite. As far as research labs go, the Miura Lab, which studies the relationship between respiratory viruses and host defense proteins, was the one I worked in.
My main focus in the last two years has been to discover the relationship between three respiratory viruses (Influenza, MHV, and Rhinovirus) and a host antiviral protein, BST-2. Eventually we hope that the results we have found can help in discovering methods of antiviral treatment or vaccines for respiratory viruses.
Study early or procrastinate?
Procrastinate, but then I get it all done anyway.
Tea and cookies!
What UI memory makes you laugh the most?
Some of the best memories I had at UI were in the microbiology labs that I was a TA for. I taught two of the microbiology labs on campus, including one designed for non-science majors, and it was so fun to see how much people don't know about the tiny microscopic world around us. I always had a smile on my face whenever I told my students that "microbes are ubiquitous!" We also made our own yogurt in this lab, then have each student taste it and the funniest part is the look on their face when they realize they just put 1 million organisms into their mouth!
Dorm or Greek?
Well since I wasn't a freshman here I never lived in the dorms, nor have I ever set foot in a Greek house, so I would consider myself off-campus. Walking 2+ miles a day is good for you!
Intramural Sports or Student Clubs?
Student clubs, although I probably participated in more events put on by the clubs and the Moscow community than I actually was a member myself.
What are your plans for after graduation?
I plan to attend Idaho State University at their Health Sciences campus in Meridian, ID, studying for a Master's degree in medical laboratory science. This is a research and thesis-based M.S. degree, which will allow me to continue to do medical research while also allowing me to teach.
What should incoming first-year students know?
You don't have to choose what you want to do right away. First, pick an area you want to study, be it science, language, technology, business, literature, etc. Take some general ed classes from this area and see what specifically interests you. For example, I started out as a biology major thinking I wanted to become a doctor. After I took microbiology, I realized that I wanted to learn so much more about bacteria and viruses, that I decided to change my major to microbiology. Also, don't be afraid to branch out and minor in something different. If I could do it all over again, I would probably add a chemistry or foreign language minor. Not because it is necessary, but because I can round out my education better with some different classes.
What advice do you have for other students in your major?
Don't worry about your grades and compare yourself to others. Just go to class every day and learn as much as you can. Science classes, especially microbiology and molecular biology classes, are so detailed, that there is no possible way for you to know everything, and improbable that you will get straight A's even if you were a 4.0 student in high school. Information in your brain will eventually go from a huge jumble of seemingly random facts to a semi-organized idea of how a certain aspect of what you are studying works, even if it takes all 4 years. When I took eukaryotic molecular genetics, I was able to name all the items needed in cellular replication, but it wasn't until I took virology in my last semester that I could actually explain in detail without looking at my notes how cellular replication is achieved. Know that learning about science takes time and energy. Don't get impatient or lazy, just be excited about science!