Undergraduate Research: A High-Impact Learning Experience For G.U. Princeton-Bound Chappel

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By Carla Morris

This school year will likely go down as “the year of good news” in Jessie Chappel’s pursuit of a biology-chemistry double major at Greenville University.

  • In August, editors of Stanford University’s Journal of Bio-protocol sent word that a paper she co-authored would appear in its September issue.
  • In November, a research group invited her to present her work at Harvard.
  • In February, Princeton University invited her to fill a summer internship with its Department of Molecular Biology.

“I’m sure the publication and presentation at Harvard played a large role in my being accepted [at Princeton],” she said.

And Assistant Professor of Biology Bwarenaba Kautu is just as sure that Jessie’s research experience at G.U. played a large role in this success too.

Research Enriches In Ways Classroom and Lab Learning CannotJessie Chappel Poster

“Research is a very powerful way to learn science,” said Kautu.

In 2018, Jessie used her participation in G.U.’s summer research experience to advance a project first initiated by two of Kautu’s former students. The project examined neurophysiological effects of plant chemicals called kavalactones. Like her predecessors, Jessie embraced an array of lessons that don’t lend themselves to a classroom setting:

  • Developing laboratory skills not covered in typical labs
  • Formulating unique or novel hypotheses and analyzing data from experimental results
  • Practicing writing skills that connect with scientific readers
  • Preparing manuscripts and submitting them to peer-reviewed journals  
  • Responding to journal reviewers
  • Communicating research findings orally to large audiences
  • Learning new knowledge and skills from colleagues in the global scientific community (a global scientific classroom)

Studying under Kautu, Jessie also learned that that her undergraduate status does not diminish the value of her work. Her discoveries can potentially find a place in scientific and medical textbooks.   

Students Create Opportunities For Themselves

“Most students who presented at the Harvard conference were from the top schools in the nation and internationally,” said Kautu. “Yale, Duke, MIT, University of British Columbia, University of Toronto—no one had heard the name of Greenville University before.” 

But that obscurity may change if student researchers like Jessie continue to create opportunities for themselves.

“Members of this research team and others doing various neuroscience projects have published, collaborated with and received invitations from top universities and biotech companies,” said Kautu. He lists Harvard, Princeton, Cambridge University and Washington University, “to name a few.”

Biotech giant Sigma Aldrich invited Brent McCollum ’17 to fill an internship with them when McCollum was still a freshman. Kautu calls the invitation “unheard of” in his experience. He credits McCollum’s research at G.U. as influential. 

Another student on the project, Spencer Jaquet ’16, went on to conduct neuroscience research at Brandeis University. The National Science Foundation funded Jaquet’s work. 

Kautu believes that making undergraduate research a priority will help more students succeed in the sciences at G.U. and give more students access to the unique, high-impact learning opportunities research affords.  

How Students Will Get To The Top

Freeing up professors’ time so they can mentor students in scientific research and discovery is key.

“I personally believe this is how our students will get to the top,” said Kautu.

Greenville University’s current strategic plan prioritizes nurturing tomorrow’s thought leaders and problem solvers through distinctive undergraduate programs like G.U.’s Summer Research Experience.

Learn More

Harvard U. Invites G.U. Bio-Chem Major Jessie Chappel to Present
Research Team to Publish in Stanford U. Scientific Journal
Students’ Discovery Draws Interest From International Scientific Community
G.U. Gives Undergrads Much-Needed Research Experience in STEM
University Students Continue Testing Well Water in Southern Illinois

You open doors of opportunity to students like Jessie with your gift to Greenville University’s Catalyst Fund. Thank you for giving.

This story was published on April 15, 2019