Former FRS Mackenzie Jochim Talks About Undergraduate Research

Hometown: Broken Arrow
Major and College: Entomology, CASNR
Research Project: Entomopathogenic Nematode Diversity in the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve
Faculty Mentor: Carmen Greenwood, Entomology

What have you gained from your research experience?

I have gained a lot of insight for figuring out what I am most interested in. I have also learned a lot about the research community and the effort it takes to truly conduct a great study. Through this research I have gained leadership skills, networking opportunities, and have learned about my passions in the entomological field.

What has been your experience with your faculty mentor?

I have had a great experience with my faculty mentor. She and I have worked closely together since I came to OSU, and she has been an exceptional resource and support while I organize and coordinate my sampling dates and the more finite details of the project. The graduate student I am working with has also been great, and I have been able to go out on his trips in order to gain more hands-on experience.

How important has this been to your college experience?

Research has been very important to my college experience. I began in Freshmen Research Scholars and have tried to find an area of research I love so I can continue to expand what I know. I feel research opens up a lot of opportunities for presentations and networking that may not be as easy to come by otherwise.

Former FRS Katie Haning Talks about Undergraduate Research

Hometown: Allen, TX

Major and College: Chemical Engineering, CEAT

Research Project: Investigating How Drug Properties Play a Role in the Release Characteristics of Drug Delivery Systems

Faculty Mentor: Heather Fahlenkamp, Chemical Engineering

What undergraduate research program(s) have you participated in?

I participated in the Freshman Research Scholars program last year, and as a sophomore I received the Wentz Research Scholar award.

What have you gained from your research experience?

Patience. Sound experiments tend to be slow and carefully executed. At the end, the results can be confusing, but the fun comes in trying to explain what really happened, knowing that you are discovering something nobody else has before.

What has been your experience with your faculty mentor?

Dr. Fahlenkamp is a great teacher and makes herself available to me. I am fortunate to have a mentor who is generous with her time and attention.

How important has research been to your college experience?

My research has been very important to my college experience because I can connect textbook learning to reality and discover new things myself.

How do you think this experience will prepare you for your chosen field after college?

I became very comfortable working with a faculty mentor and graduate students in a research group. Whether I work for a company in industry or do research, I will surely need to communicate with people of diverse backgrounds.

Innovation Starvation?

In a recent essay for the World Policy Institute, Neal Stephenson, science-fiction author of Cryptonomicon and Snow Crash, laments the “general failure of our society to get big things done,” arguing that “researchers and engineers have found themselves concentrating on more and more narrowly focused topics as science and technology have become more complex” while corporations have eschewed risk in search of illusory “ineluctable certainty–the true innovation-killer of our age.”  Stephenson writes,

My lifespan encompasses the era when the United States of America was capable of launching human beings into space. Some of my earliest memories are of sitting on a braided rug before a hulking black-and-white television, watching the early Gemini missions. This summer, at the age of 51—not even old—I watched on a flatscreen as the last Space Shuttle lifted off the pad.  I have followed the dwindling of the space program with sadness, even bitterness.  Where’s my donut-shaped space station? Where’s my ticket to Mars? Until recently, though, I have kept my feelings to myself. Space exploration has always had its detractors. To complain about its demise is to expose oneself to attack from those who have no sympathy that an affluent, middle-aged white American has not lived to see his boyhood fantasies fulfilled.

Still, I worry that our inability to match the achievements of the 1960s space program might be symptomatic of a general failure of our society to get big things done. My parents and grandparents witnessed the creation of the airplane, the automobile, nuclear energy, and the computer to name only a few. Scientists and engineers who came of age during the first half of the 20th century could look forward to building things that would solve age-old problems, transform the landscape, build the economy, and provide jobs for the burgeoning middle class that was the basis for our stable democracy.  Continue reading…

Six Former FRS Selected for the 2011-12 Niblack Research Scholars Program

Oklahoma State University has selected 12 undergraduate students to participate in the 2011-12 Niblack Research Scholars program. Funded by a gift from OSU alumnus Dr. John Niblack, each student will receive an $8,000 scholarship and will have the unique opportunity to conduct research in a university lab, assisted by a faculty sponsor and graduate student mentor. This year six former FRS were selected for the program:

  • Kelsie Brooks, microbiology, cell and molecular biology major from Norman, OK
  • Kayla Davis, biochemistry and molecular biology major from Stillwater, OK
  • Brandi Gallaher, physiology major from Tulsa, OK
  • Mackenzie Jochim, entomology and plant pathology major from Broken Arrow, OK
  • Mrinalini Patil, biochemistry and psychology major from Stillwater, OK
  • Zachary Sheffert, chemical engineering major from Stillwater, OK

The purpose of the Niblack Research Scholars program is to develop undergraduate student interest in scholarly research within the various disciplines offered at OSU. The award is intended to provide students with a valuable educational experience not available to most undergraduate students.

John Niblack, OSU alumnus and founder of the Niblack research program, was the previous vice chairman of Pfizer Inc., a $32 billion pharmaceutical company that discovers and produces leading prescriptions for humans, animals and many of the world’s best-known consumer brands. Niblack said he started the research program in order to give students the opportunity to do front-of- line research versus just taking classes and researching in an artificial lab.

“I enjoy giving students the opportunity to see what real science is like, as opposed to textbook science or lab science,” Niblack said. “I hope many of them, after completing the program, will decide to become professional scientists.”

Twelve scholars are selected each year to receive an award of $2,000 per semester and $4,000 for June and July totaling $8,000 to conduct their research. Awards are credited to students’ bursar accounts pending satisfactory progress and performance throughout the year. Their graduate mentors receive a research assistantship of $2,100 during the summer research months.

Sarah Firdaus, biochemistry senior and 2010-2011 Niblack scholar, heard about the program from the arts and sciences department. The emails about current students working in the lab encouraged Firdaus to begin her own research, she said.

“Research is important because it is a way to learn about particular problems and it is a way to solve those problems,” Firdaus said. “Research is all around us.”

Scholars select a faculty sponsor and graduate mentor for assistance and encouragement. The students spend two to five hours a week working with their mentors in a hands-on laboratory throughout the school year. During the summer, a minimum of 20 hours of lab work is required each week for two months.

Connie Yearwood, an animal science senior and previous Niblack scholar, similarly found out about the Niblack Scholar Research program through OSU staff and faculty and her mentors Dr. Raluca Mateescu and Justin Buchanan.

“I quickly found out that research is a part of any job field you want to go into,” Yearwood said. “Research is what gives us direct improvement in our field of study or what I, as the researcher, am very passionate about.”

Firdaus’ research was about the lipid metabolism in a moth called Manduca Sexta. The purpose of her project was to characterize a protein called ATGL by cloning, localizing and studying it under different metabolic conditions.

“Whether a discovery is made by accident or with a focus, without research many of the things we take for granted we wouldn’t know about,” Firdaus said. “DNA is a prime example because we didn’t know the exact structure before 1952 when Watson and Crick published a paper on what they thought the structure really was.”

Jacob Stockton, a mechanical engineering senior and 2010-2011 Niblack scholar, said the best part of being a Niblack scholar is the knowledge, the experience and the research gained.

”Research provides hands-on experience that one cannot get outside of the classroom,” Stockton said. “I would encourage anyone who has any interest whatsoever to apply for the scholarship.”

Stockton’s project was on the design and evaluation of a structurally integrated vertical axis wind turbine. There have been few mechanical engineering students to participate in the Niblack research program over the past years, Stockton said, which made him even more appreciative to have been selected and to be able to pursue something he is interested in.

The Niblack program is highly competitive, Yearwood said. Students are required to study on the Stillwater campus, be enrolled full-time, have at least 28 and no more than 94 semester credit hours earned (cumulative graduation/retention) at the start of the fall semester.

Niblack applicants are evaluated based on their qualifications to conduct the project, their career ambitions, faculty recommendations and the likely educational value for the student.

“I cried when I found I won, which isn’t typical of me,” Yearwood said. “Winning the Niblack Research Scholar program award was my greatest accomplishment in my undergraduate work.”

Yearwood said she believes it was instrumental in her being accepted into OSU’s Veterinary School by the 3 + 1 program, which allows her first year of vet school to count as her fourth year of undergrad. The award also relieved the economical difficulty her family was enduring that year and gave her the opportunity to conduct her own research project, she said.

Firdaus and the other Niblack scholars agreed that they have all learned a lot from participating in the program. The program has allowed them to learn more about different research techniques, how material is presented, how to write scientific papers and with understanding about how real world researchers solve problems, Firdaus said.

“It is a long process that takes patience and persistence,” Firdaus said. “I thoroughly enjoy it.”

Firdaus wants her time as a Niblack scholar to be reflected in her work when she begins her career in research, she said. She hopes to find a job in a company dealing with cancer research and marine organisms.

“Winning the Niblack program was a huge step in my academic and professional career,” Firdaus said. “I hope it will give me an edge over my competitors when applying to grad schools.”

Yearwood said she hopes to be able to support future students and to allow them to get experience in research early in their studies.

”I certainly have learned the importance of research, and the importance of giving this opportunity to undergraduate students,” Yearwood said.

The students also agreed about their appreciation for the Niblack program and for being selected as scholars.

“Dr. Niblack provided me an opportunity that is not afforded to many,” Stockton said. “I am extremely grateful for his generosity.”

More details about the students’ research are available at  The Niblack Research Scholars will make presentations about their findings during OSU Research Week, Feb. 20-24, 2012.

Official Press Releases: 10-07-2011 and 10-10-2011 (Includes Complete NRS List)

The Benefit of Ignorance and the Wisdom of Experience

Next week marks mid-term of your first semester at OSU! I hope you’ve enjoyed your experience on campus thus far and that your coursework is going well. I have spoken with several of you about promising mentors and project ideas, but many may still have some anxiety about making contact with a faculty member about research so early in your time on campus. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task before you and aren’t sure you have the skill set to succeed, I want to reassure you with an observation on the benefit of ignorance and offer some wisdom from the experiences of former Freshman Research Scholars (see comments).

Even though you probably lack several fundamental skills necessary to execute the type of research that you aspire to and you don’t know much about the questions driving research in your field, that same ignorance affords the unique opportunity for innovation. Not knowing “how it’s done” or what questions to ask, gives you the chance to create new lines of inquiry by asking bold questions free of the fetters of established modes of thought. You will, of course, need to acquire a comprehensive understanding of your field and the associated skills. That’s what coursework is designed to accomplish. Research, however, allows you to employ the creativity that is uniquely you to affect positive change in the world you will inhabit as graduates.

The challenge ahead of you is not easy, but the rewards are great. I often characterize the difficult transition from high school to college as a pedagogical paradigm shift from thinking collectively and working independently (the student’s task of knowledge acquisition) to thinking independently and working collaboratively (the scholar’s role as innovator and leader). As a Freshman Research Scholar you are challenged to strive for such independence of thought. Under the watchful eye of your faculty mentor, it is, as R.W. Emerson declares, “for you to dare all.”

In closing I want to direct your attention to the comments section below where former FRS have been invited to share the wisdom of their experience. And I want to remind you of another line from Emerson’s The American Scholar: “Meek young men [and women] grow up in libraries, believing it their duty to accept the views which Cicero, which Locke, which Bacon, have given, forgetful that Cicero, Locke, and Bacon were only young men [and women] in libraries, when they wrote these books.”

Seven Former FRS Among the Top 10 Freshmen Men and Women of OSU

Congratulations to the FRS among the Top 10 Freshman Men and Women of OSU!

Women front row left to right - Jana Gregory, Callie Heerwagen, Caroline Bremer, Emily Jones, Brooke Ramsey, Mollie Field, Kaley Uptergrove, Jacy Alsup, Katy Allen, Lauren Foley. Men left to right - Mitchell Earl, Nick Jordan, Logan Scott, Nick Staples, Tyler Price, Charles Maloy, Lyman Lenker, Marty Jones, Eric Gilbert, and Max Wiebrecht.












The selection of students, who are now in their sophomore year at OSU, is based upon scholastic achievement, leadership and participation in campus activities, service and awareness of the student’s role at the university. The honor is to recognize and encourage leadership among freshmen. The former FRS are as follows:

Top 10 Freshmen | Women:

  • Lauren Foley, Zoology and Spanish (Pre-Med)
  • Emily Jones, Human Nutrition (Pre-Med)

Top 10 Freshmen | Men:

  • Nick Jordan, Physiology and Psychology
  • Logan Scott, Chemical Engineering
  • Mitchell Earl, Physiology and Latin (Pre-Med)
  • Nick Staples, International Business
  • Charles Maloy, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (Pre-Med)

Look for these students at the field ceremony at the end of the first quarter of the OSU v. Kansas football game in Boone Pickens Stadium.

Former FRS Erin Best Talks About Undergraduate Research

Hometown: Houston, TX

Major and College: Microbiology & Molecular Genetics, College of Arts & Sciences

Research Project: The Effect of Calcium on Motility in Pseudomonas Aeruginosa

Faculty Mentor: Marianna Patrauchan, Microbiology

What have you gained personally from this research experience?

Personally, I have learned to be patient with myself–to understand that real world problems take critical thinking and reasoning. Sometimes procedures go wrong, and you have to try again. Getting frustrated with yourself or the situation will only make things worse.

What has been your experience with the assisting faculty member you have been working with?

Dr. Patrauchan definitely wants her students to succeed and pushes us to reach our potential.

How important has this been to your college experience?

I cannot imagine how different college would have been for me if I was not involved in research.  I put in about eight hours a week, and I learn so much every time I come into lab.  My experience in research has shaped me as a person both academically and personally.

How do you think this experience will prepare you for your chosen field after college?

I believe my experience will help me to have an “edge” for professional school and my future career. To come into a career with some basic skills is something employers will be looking for.

Former FRS Jacob Burton Talks About Undergraduate Research

Hometown: Oklahoma City, OK

Major and College: Civil Engineering, College of Engineering, Architecture & Technology

Research Project: Comparative Analysis of Commercial Grout vs. Polyester Cement as Backfill for Dowel Bar Retrofit

Faculty Mentor: Tyler Ley, Structural Engineering

What have you gained personally from this research experience?

This research has allowed me to focus on a specific project that interests me while still being able to gain a broad range of knowledge from my civil engineering courses. I have been able to network with professionals in industry that without this opportunity would have never happened.

What has been your experience with the assisting faculty member you have been working with?

Dr. Ley has been very supportive and helpful as I begin my research this year. His extensive experience in research has been key in allowing my current research to go smoothly thus far. He has been an excellent research adviser and I am looking forward to completing this project under his guidance.

How important has this been to your college experience?

Research is something I had the opportunity to pursue as a freshmen through the Freshmen Research Scholars program. As a freshman, I worked under Dr. Jeong in the Civil Engineering Department as well as three graduate students. That experience encouraged me to pursue a Wentz Award. The opportunity to complete my own research has been challenging as I am just beginning, but I have already learned so much from it. The research is of huge importance since this is my last year as an undergraduate here at OSU and this is the last time I will be completing undergraduate research.

Is the Patent War Stifling Innovation?

Pointing to a recent episode of This American Life titled “When Patents Attack,” the writers at mbaonline created the infographic included below, which argues that current patent law stifles innovation.  As the next generation of innovators (and lawyers), you may find yourself in the middle of what mbaonline calls a “crisis” that puts “profit over creation.”

Current FRS Stephen Ogle Selected for W.W. Allen Scholars Program

Current Freshman Research Scholar Stephen Ogle of Fort Gibson, Okla. has been selected for the W.W. Allen Scholars Program at Oklahoma State University, considered the premier engineering scholars program in the nation. This elite program includes a generous scholarship and awards package (totaling approximately $82,000) to advance development towards being one of the nation’s top engineering graduates.

“The central purpose of the W. W. Allen Scholars Program is to initiate the development of future intellectual leaders who are committed to enriching the quality of life for others,” said Dr. Karl Reid, Regents Service Professor, College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology at OSU.

Scholars participate in leadership activities, team building, career planning, self-assessment, national and international travel experiences designed to expand the educational opportunities.

The scholars program was established by Wayne Allen, former chairman and CEO of Phillips Petroleum Company. Aside from being personally mentored by Allen, the scholar receives an annual scholarship throughout their undergraduate studies at OSU, followed by the opportunity for one-year of funded graduate study abroad at one of the world’s foremost universities; the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.

Ogle is the 18-year-old son of Mike and Diane Ogle of Fort Gibson, Okla. Ogle attended Muskogee High School where he was captain of the Academic Pursuit Team, a member of the National Honor Society, and achieved a 4.4 weighted GPA. Ogle is currently a freshman at OSU studying Chemical Engineering with the future ambition to serve as the U.S. Surgeon General. Continue to full press release…