OURS panel shares impact and value of their research and internship experiences


An overflow crowd of Radford University students explored the opportunities presented by undergraduate research and internship experience at the 2015 Summer Research Opportunities Student Panel on Dec. 3 in Heth Hall.

“Set your sights high,” said Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship (OURS) Director Joseph Wirgau, who moderated a panel of five seniors who shared the trials, tribulations and techniques of landing a critical early professional experience. “These are stories to inspire you, the next cohort of Radford researchers and scientists.”

The 2015 Summer Research Opportunities Student Panel featured:

  • Cassie Bonavita, a senior biology major from Williamsburg, who was an American Society for Microbiology Research Fellow and a member of the Radford Amazonian Research Expedition team. She also conducted fieldwork in Costa Rica on dengue fever in mosquitos.
  • Jordan Eagle, a senior physics major, who was a National Science Foundation-Research Experience for Undergraduate award winner and worked last summer with William and Mary and NASA’s Langley Research Center. She also was a member of the 2014 research team that researched arctic ice in Alaska.
  • Emily Guise, a senior biology major who was a Scholar Citizen in Action and Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship Winner and a member of the Radford Amazonian Research Expedition team.
  • Haja Kargbo, a senior biology major, who did a summer internship at the National Institute of Health’s National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIH-NIDA) in Baltimore.
  • Kayla McNeilly, a senior biology major, who did an internship at the Dolphin Research Center in Grassy Key, Florida. 

The 2015 Summer Research Opportunities Student Panel featured (from left): Kayla McNeilly, Haja Kargbo, Emily Guise, Jordan Eagle and Cassie Bonavita.

Eagle encouraged the more than 70 aspiring scientists and researchers to be aggressive and push themselves.

“You have to be involved in your department; that is where you hear of opportunities,” said Eagle whose internship was in material sciences and outside her main interest, astrophysics. “I decided early that if I wanted experience then I had to apply for and take as many opportunities as I could.”
Kargbo worked in the electrophysiology lab of the NIH-NIDA to study the brain receptors in rats to understand how they process substances. “I had to overcome my own self-doubts,” Kargbo said. “But I am passionate and refuse to stop showing how interested I am and how badly I want the opportunity to learn.”

McNeilly discovered her 14-week internship opportunity while on vacation with her family. After successfully applying, she assisted with research, training and care of the DRC’s family of marine animals.  She was part of a project to test the hypothesis that dolphins can count and the experience was pivotal for her.

“I want to do this the rest of my life - save the oceans,” she said. “In my gut, I never thought I was qualified.  I won’t sell myself short ever again.”

For Kargbo, the experience was equally meaningful.

“The people I met sculpted the way I think now,” she said.

Each panelist characterized the Radford University faculty as vital to their efforts to grow.

“My whole career is based on a conversation I had with a faculty member (Associate Professor of Biology Justin Anderson),” she said. “I walked into his office, asked what he did and told him I was interested.”

Eagle echoed the value of curiosity and enquiry.

“Know your professors. Use their open doors,” she said. “Before you know it people will be coming to you for help.  It spirals.”

Wirgau and the panelists encouraged students to contact the OURS office at ours@radford.edu or 540-831-5650 for guidance and direction on the opportunities available.

”Original research and scholarship are important for developing a deep and practical understanding of any discipline," said Wirgau. "Now is the time for undergraduates to explore their opportunities to transform themselves from student to scholar."


Dec 15, 2015