Jean-Nicole Place ’16 arrived at BU after graduating from Montoursville Area High School knowing she wanted to study something math- or science-related, but not sure of her career path. Dedicated faculty in the College of Science and Technology helped her to discover her passion, breast cancer research.
A freshman-level course and related research with Kevin Williams, assistant professor of biological and allied health sciences, revealed her initial interest in studying plants. But it was the opportunity to pursue research in the area of molecular biology with William Schwindinger, also assistant professor of biological and allied health sciences, that set her career direction. With Schwindinger’s mentorship, she worked with animal cells to learn how they can be studied to help identify, diagnose and treat breast cancer.
“Dr. Schwindinger encouraged me so much and worked with me on a personal level,” says Place. “He taught me how to apply what I learned in his class and translate it to the research I was doing in the lab.”
Schwindinger believes faculty-student research collab-orations play an important role in the student experience. “I have helped several students with similar projects,” he says, “and I knew that Jean’s drive, along with her interest in the research and clear goals to learn the techniques, made her an excellent candidate for the Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity (URSCA) award.” BU’s URSCA awards provide stipends of up to $6,000 to students participating in summer research, scholarship or creative activities.
With Schwindinger’s assistance, Place wrote a proposal for the URSCA grant, which enabled her to stay in Bloomsburg during the summer to work on her research. As a result, Place was able devote her complete focus to her research and she earned the John C. Johnson Award for the best research poster at Beta Beta Beta Biology Honor Society’s National Biennial Convention in St. Paul, Minn.
Through the It’s Personal campaign, additional support will be generated to increase student/faculty research experience opportunities. Place, who graduated in August, strongly encourages undergraduates to participate in research projects with faculty. “It’s a unique learning experience that helps you to apply your classwork and curriculum to the actual working world. I’ve found that I qualify for a number of jobs that I wouldn’t have been eligible for if not for the research opportunities and support I’ve had from BU faculty.” •
Tom Schaeffer is communications coordinator for the Bloomsburg University Foundation.