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RISE students have big goals in mind

By Joshua Davis
Staff Writer

October 18, 2012


Photo by Hillary Akers
Members of the RISE research committee meet about research that is to be conducted this year.
A total of 32 students applied to the Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) program at UNCP; however, this year's cohort of RISE fellows was selected for its ability to contribute to the advancement of undergraduate research in the sciences.

Mycah Sewell

"Honestly, I didn't even know what the RISE program was, but I heard they did research," sophomore Mycah Sewell said.

A self-described introvert, Sewell, a biology major, has maintained a high GPA since elementary school. However, Sewell is the only person in her family to show any interest in the field of science.

"I've always been interested in learning how life is affected by genetics and microscopic organisms like bacteria, as well as other disease-causing agents like viruses," she said.

Kassie Conway

Kassie Conway is a freshman biology major with a concentration in biomedicine. Conway said that her fascination with the sciences began to emerge when her family physician put her in contact with a researcher from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

"It was like a job shadow," Conway said. "The laboratory was so interesting…better than reading about it in a book or having your professor explain it to you."

Conway hopes to attend graduate school at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga., where she intends to study clinical pathology.

"One of my things is how good the library is," she added. "If it's really good, there's probably a reason why."

"I've always had a high GPA…the science conferences, the research posters…I'm looking forward to participating in all of it," freshman Eric Anderson said.

Eric Anderson

As a chemistry major, Anderson readily admits that he has always had an interest in "the medicinal field."

He wants his area of focus to be in pharmacology, but if given the opportunity, he would like to "both expand and enhance my knowledge" in whatever way he can.

Anderson also said that if all goes well, one of his goals is to apply and gain acceptance into the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Eshelman School of Pharmacy.

Sarah Hafner

Sarah Hafner is a sophomore biology major whose passion for biochemistry helped open her eyes to the possibilities of goal-oriented research.

Hafner hopes to conduct research targeting both the cause and the effect of multiple sclerosis, or MS, either by recreating nerve sheathings or slowing down the immune attack on nerve fibers.

"I know quite a few people with autoimmune deficiency," Hafner said. "I want to do research to help find a cure or preventative measure."

Hafner appreciates the support she has received from the RISE program. "So far, I like RISE enough that I would apply again," she said.

Jessica Brown

Jessica Brown, a chemistry major in her third year, has learned to develop a certain amount of skepticism, especially when it comes to the effectiveness of various treatment methods.

"There's not enough people doing research, trying to fix the problem…they just want to treat the problem," she said.

Brown believes that pharmaceutical research on drugs prescribed to patients is a research interest worth pursuing.

"I was just going to do things on my own, without any help, because I'm really proactive," she said. "But the RISE program gives me that extra boost."

Marsalis Smith

"I think science is fun," first year RISE fellow Marsalis Smith said. According to Smith, his love for the sciences started when, as a kid, he would watch the Discovery Channel practically around-the-clock. Now, Smith's interest in the sciences has matured.

"There's a notion that if you just go through college you'll be fine. A lot of entry level jobs ask for two to three years of experience," he said. "So getting experience in research is essential."

Smith hopes to gain experience conducting rigorous research.

"My goal is to get into graduate school, bottom line," he said. "I'm serious about accomplishing my goals."

Smith also said that he envisions himself studying neurological engineering.

"I came to UNCP specifically for the RISE program. I hope everyone that's in it realizes the opportunity they have," he said. "I'm really happy to be here."

Jordan Smink

Growing up, senior Jordan Smink wanted to be a veterinarian; however, a presentation by a pharmaceutical representative from Bayer changed her mind and led her to embrace a life of science.

Smink, a zoology and molecular biology major with a concentration in biomedicine, now has her heart set on a career that combines her love of research with her passion for clinical medicine.

"I want my research to get to the point that I can give something back to humanity," she said.

Smink also believes that she owes most of her success to the guidance and support of her advisers and mentors.

"The RISE program has been like surrogate parents: lab notebooks, GRE prep work, all of which prepares us for graduate research and our other academic courses," Smink said.

Armando Corona

"It sounds strange, but science was the most hated class that I had in high school," junior Armando Corona said. "I even failed chemistry. And now, it's my major."

In hindsight, though, Corona is glad he failed that chemistry class and had to take it over again. A few years later, Corona would find himself applying to the UNCP-RISE program.

"I didn't know what to expect until I started to do research in the lab," he said.

Now in his third year as a RISE fellow, Corona has attended numerous science-related conferences, displayed his research and delivered oral presentations explaining his research experiences in the laboratory.

Corona hopes to attend graduate school at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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