Alliance Area Mount Union College Graduates Explore Different Aspects of Science

April 01, 2010

Three area graduates of Mount Union College are headed for careers in the field of science, but each one with an emphasis on a very different and particular field of study.

Erin Barker of Alliance went to Mount Union to major in biology, hoping to become a veterinarian. "I had wanted to be a vet since I was 8 or 9 years old because I love animals," said Barker. "But after taking a few classes at Mount Union, I discovered that other areas of science fit my interests a bit more."

Barker altered her coursework a bit, and graduated magna cum laude on Sunday with a degree in biology. She plans to attend The Ohio State University this fall, pursuing a master's degree in biochemistry with an emphasis on biotechnology. The master's program in biochemistry will take two years, and then she would like to attend law school with the ultimate goal of working in patent law for biotechnology industries.

Barker spent last summer doing research in molecular genetics at a ten-week program at Ohio State, an experience which, she says, "opened her eyes to the wide array of things you can do in science." She credits biology instructor Laura Beal, and biology professors Dr. Charles Brueske and Dr. Leonard Epp with helping her get internships and make choices about graduate school. She also enjoyed being involved with Beta Beta Beta, the biological honorary, of which she served as president.

Gina DeVault's interest in science started early, because it was an area of study that "always came easy to me." She originally thought she might become a doctor, but at Mount Union she realized she had other options in the field of science.

"I realized that although I did not want to become a doctor, I still wanted to be in profession that helps people," said DeVault, who is from Alliance and graduated cum laude with a degree in chemistry. "I decided I would like to go into pharmaceutical research."

DeVault will be attending the University of Michigan this fall, pursuing a Ph.D. degree in chemistry. As DeVault was thinking about graduate school, Professor Beal encouraged her to get some experience that would help her gain admission to the best graduate programs. This prompted her to become involved with a research internship at Wellesley College in Boston last summer.

"I couldn't have asked for a better experience," says DeVault. "I was able to work directly with professors, rather than students, and it was all very ?hands-on' work. I actually presented some of my research at the national convention of the American Chemical Society in Orlando in April."

DeVault enjoyed being a member of the student affiliate of the American Chemical Society, and the Alembroic Society, an organization for chemistry students.

"The Alembroic Society gave me a different perspective on chemistry other than what I learned with classwork," said DeVault.

Michael Greiner of Alliance says that his interest in science began while he was a Boy Scout.

"I developed a love of the outdoors when I was scouting," said Greiner. "So when I chose to major in science, it was initially out of the desire to have an ?outdoor' job, rather than a ?desk job.' Because of my love of nature, I am very interested in preservation and environmental issues. "

Following graduation, Greiner, who earned his degree in environmental biology, is looking for a job before pursuing graduate school.

"I eventually want to go to graduate school, and there are several of my professors who have been encouraging me to go that route," said Greiner. "But first I would like to actually work in the field and experience what is out there."

During his years at Mount Union, Greiner enjoyed working at the John T. Huston Dr. John D. Brumbaugh Nature Center. He spent three summers working there, and was able to talk to visiting groups, help set up special education programs and work with the day camps as a summer counselor. He credits biology professor Dr. Charles McClaugherty, his advisor and director of the Nature Center, for helping him in his field of study.

"Dr. McClaugherty is someone I knew even before I went to Mount Union through my church," says Greiner. "He has a real love for the outdoors."

Greiner also mentions Dr. Brandon Sheafor, assistant professor of biology, who taught some of his biology courses.

"He really knows how to get you involved and make it fun. You have a good time in class, but you are learning as well," says Greiner.

All three graduates mentioned the vast areas of interest included in the field of science. DeVault enjoyed a trip with the student affiliate of the American Chemical Society to an area elementary schools. "We talked to the kids about science, which I thought was great," said DeVault. "There are so many interesting things you can do in science. If you can get kids interested in science when they are young, they might stay with it."

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