Michelle is from Fairfax, Va., and graduated from Radford University in the fall of 2014 with a degree in Biology and a concentration in Pre-Health. She is in the process of working toward a second degree in Nursing.
Originally, Michelle planned to pursue veterinarian school but found that though she has a passion and respect for wildlife, it didn’t feel like the right path for her future career. "Science was the only thing I knew for sure that I had a passion for, so I turned that love toward people," she recalls. "I started to pursue a second degree my junior year and am now waiting to hear back from Radford’s School of Nursing and other nursing programs to finish that degree."
Michelle's experience with the Biology program has helped expand her view of the world. "I’ve learned that it’s always important not to just take things at face value," she says. "My professors always talked about making sure to always ask your own questions. As I’m continuing into the nursing field, those professors want the same thing. A good nurse knows the information, but a great nurse knows it and understands why and applies that knowledge."
The Radford Amazonian Research Expedition (RARE) is only the latest in Michelle's journeys. "I participated in the biology department's study abroad trip down to the Virgin Islands last spring and got my first taste of what it will be like to go out and do my own research," she states. "Now that I know what to expect, and with a longer time frame, here’s hoping I can encourage other nursing students to want to go out and do the same. In a field where things are constantly updating, it’s kind of a fun thought to have that the work I’m doing could be part of that change."
Michelle is encorporating her interest in nursing into her RARE research projects. "At the moment I plan to track our health in general while we’re in Peru, but also I plan to look at insect attraction and inflammation responses to this," she says. "While visiting last fall, Dr. Davis described how even though he got eaten alive, the locals seemed to have no bites to show." Michelle adds, "When he asked them about this they replied ...it’s not because we don’t get bitten, it’s because we don’t swell ... and this gives me great interest to study inflammation as a part of my research."
People all over the world are accustomed to the environment that they grow up in. This includes diet, exercise, and how their bodies react to the environment and organisms around them. As field researchers coming from Southwest Virginia to the Peruvian Amazon, our bodies will be forced out of their comfort zones and will need to adapt in order to continue to function as close to normal as possible. As a culture that is centered around easily accessible foods 24 hours a day and diets high in carbs and sugar, it is my prediction that with easy access to processed food out of the equation, locally grown food and home cooked meals along with daily activities including plenty of cardiovascular exercise (ex: hiking), I expect to see increased health in the members of our research team.
Along with the researchers entering into an environment that isn’t their own, they will also be introducing themselves to the organisms that already live there; including those of the biting, bloodsucking insect variety. There are many things that attract insects to specific humans, including blood type, body heat, respiration, and moisture/sweat. It is my prediction that the team members who have type O blood, higher average body temperatures, breath heavily and/or frequently, and/or sweat more will experience a higher number of bites than others. It is also my prediction that by the end our stay at the station, the group as a whole will have fewer and fewer new bites and show less responses to them as their bodies adjust.