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STEM Student Spotlight
Michael Ziegenfus, a Junior majoring in Physics from Gloucester, Virginia explains how he is making the most of his Radford University experience.
From Scotland to New York to West Virginia to Alaska, Michael has traveled thousands of miles in his journey as a Highlander.
Emily Brandow is a senior Biology major with a Chemistry minor at Radford University.
Originally from Greensboro, North Carolina, Emily is also a member of the Radford Tennis Team and serves as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). “I recently worked as an EMT this summer to get a feel for the medical field and learned so much” stated Emily. “I have always loved learning about the brain; factors that affect it and its response in the body. I love the vastness of information we still have to learn about the brain, and want my future career to focus on this, either medically or in research/ education.”
In October, Emily and her research partner presented the work they conducted in the Summer of 2023. “We wanted to delve into the effects of stress on the body, which led to the design of our project of various effects that psychological stress can have, using a social species - zebra finches.”
Emily is working with Dr. Jason Davis, Professor of Biology.
Michael Alford is a member of the Class of 2022 from Lexington, VA. He is a major in Anthropological Sciences and a minor in Computer Science and Information Systems. He is also a veteran and enlisted and served in the United States Army in 2013 where he was deployed to Qatar in support of Operation Enduring Freedom Spartan Shield. Following his honorable discharge in 2019 he enrolled at Radford University. He plans to pursue a career in cybersecurity and information systems support. “Enjoy the time here as it goes by in the blink of an eye” stated Michael as he reflected upon his Radford experience and prepares for Commencement.
Breauna is senior biology major with a minor in psychology.
Within her major, she has participated in research into small cell lung cancer over the summer at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Dr. Leslie Poole's Biochemistry Lab.
"In this research, we are interested in whether the KRAS-G12C protein in cells can still cause cancerous growth, even in the presence of inhibitor, if it's oxidized first" stated Breauna. "The long-range goal is to determine if KRAS-G12C Cys-12 oxidation state influences KRAS-G12C sensitivity to inhibitor in cells. This will provide more knowledge about KRAS inhibitor to be able to develop future KRAS inhibitors that can be used for treatment of human cancers."
Breauna is looking forward to presenting her work at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for minorized scientists (ABRCMS ).
She is currently working with Dr. Peter Christmas during the 2022-2023 fall and spring semesters using cell culture and real time Polymerase Chain Reactions (PCR) to investigate gene expression in inflammation.
Breauna is an Appalachian Arts and Studies in the Schools (AASIS) mentor where she provides advice and support to high school students that are identified by their teachers as "college-able, but not necessarily college-bound" to be able to inform and encourage them to attend college.
She is also active in the Pre-Med association at Radford University, serving as secretary from 2021 to present.
Breauna is also providing significant support to the REALISE program, a group of STEM students and faculty creating an inclusive environment/ space for everyone.
"We focus our community-based activities around gaining more of a welcoming environment for all students on campus" she said. "REALISE prides ourselves on the inclusivity of everyone to feel comfortable engaging and attending activities on campus. We educate ourselves on the environment and community that RU has by utilizing databases to hear students/ faculty’s opinions and concerns."
In addition to her academic work, Breauna is a long sprinter on the Radford University Women's Track and Field team. "I have had the privilege of being on this team since my freshman year in 2019" she recalled. "I got to compete at the indoor BIG South Championship in 2019 and the outdoor BIG South Conference Championship in 2022. I got the BIG SOUTH Presidential AB Honor Roll Fall 2020- Spring 2021."
Kaleb Martin helps share the Universe around us with students of all ages in many ways as part of his Radford experience.
As a host at the Radford University Planetarium, Kaleb regularly takes visitors on a tour of our celestial neighborhood. "The planetarium is the best job a student interested in astronomy can have" he stated.
Not only does the role help showcase Kaleb's astronomy experience, but it also helps him prepare to share his knowledge with peers and the general population "This job prepares students to become better critical thinkers when events don’t go according to plan and most importantly it helps with public speaking" Kaleb recalled. "My communication skills have greatly improved since I started and I can’t wait to see what else I can learn from the planetarium."
In addition to his service in the Planetarium, Kaleb has explored other ways to help interested students engage in Physics education, especially during the pandemic. In 2020 and 2021, the Radford University Chapter of the SPS provided Zoom meetings to area high school students where they explained how to build AM radios.
That effort was designed to encourage young scholars to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) curriculum and was featured in the Winter 2022 edition of the SPS Observer magazine, where a photo of Kaleb was featured on the cover.
Kaleb and his fellow classmate Sam Williams later shared their experience in a presentation during the April 2021 meeting of the Chesapeake section of the American Association of Physics Teachers.
Undergraduate Abbi Green presented her work at the the 50th Annual North American Symposium on Bat Research (NASBR) and the 19th International Bat Research Conference (IBRC) held on August 7-12th, 2022 in Austin Texas.
She also did some kayaking under the Congress Ave Bridge to watch the 1.5 million Brazilian free-tailed bats emerge for the night as they do all summer.
Abbi is working with Dr. Tara Pelletier on a phylogatR project. The group is exploring genetic structure over geographic space in 100s of species of salamanders and bats.
Abbi is cleaning and analyzing data in both these groups using the R statistacal computing language, and learning a lot about DNA.
As a math major, she is very excited to be applying her math skills to biological problems!