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Grants Gives Undergrads a Sample of Graduate School

By Jenny Bjelland
UW-RF News Bureau

JAN. 28, 2005--Four University of Wisconsin-River Falls undergraduate students received the chance to spend 10 weeks working with a research university of their choice this past summer.

The experience was the result of a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to the UW-RF College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences with the purpose of familiarizing students with the graduate school setting. Students are selected to participate based on their interest in graduate school and their academic work along with recommendations from their academic advisors.

The four UW-RF students involved during summer 2004 include Nick Vreeland, a senior geology major from Rice Lake, Wis., Andrew Mizgalski, a senior horticulture major from Wausau, Wis., Tammy Golat, a senior animal science major with an equine management option from Bruce, Wis., and Elsa Arnold, a senior double-major in agricultural business and music from Caledonia, Minn.

Six more students will be chosen to participate during summer 2005.

Nick Vreeland took this grant opportunity to further his study of geology and his interest in glaciers. Vreeland's geology professor and academic advisor, Bob Baker, helped steer him toward Iowa State University where Vreeland worked with a doctorate student and faculty members. Together they collected about 1,500 glacial till samples from a quarry in Illinois.

The samples were then taken to the University of Minnesota, where Vreeland helped to test and analyze the samples. According to Vreeland, he was testing the magnetic susceptibility of the samples which showed the direction the till grains were aligned in and thus the direction the glacier was traveling.

Andrew Mizgalski highly recommended his experience at Cornell University "I met a lot of people within the horticulture field, which I think is really valuable," he said.

Mizgalski had the opportunity to work at both Cornell's Ithaca, N.Y. campus and the Long Island Horticultural Research Laboratory in Riverhead, N.Y. He was involved in a variety of studies including examining breeding programs for cut flowers, evaluating perennial plants, studying fruit and vegetable diseases, and analyzing planting depth effects on bulb crops.

Through the influence of UW-RF animal science Professor Gary Onan, senior Tammy Golat spent her summer in the genetics lab at the University of Minnesota. Her interest in the horse industry grew as she worked with a graduate student studying thoroughbred horses with recurrent exertional rhabdomyolysis. The disease occurs within 5 percent of all thoroughbreds and leads to tying-up following an exercise period. Golat examined horse pedigrees along with blood and DNA samples of more than 1,000 horses. She also examined and compared the DNA sequences of dogs with and without a disease called hyperekplexia, which can lead to seizures. The goal was to locate possible locations of genes that cause the disease.

Golat said she thoroughly enjoyed "the aspect of being behind the scene doing the testing and all the work that goes into determining if the animal has the disease." She has a new appreciation for the occupation as well. "There is a lot more lab work than people realize," she said.

Elsa Arnold traveled to Michigan State where her main project was to conduct a feasibility study on a regional anaerobic digester, which would provide heat and electricity for a greenhouse operation. Arnold researched the engineering aspects of the digester, compared it to other similar machines, ensured that the digester covered all government and environmental policies, and determined if it would work from a biosecurity perspective.

Each of the four participants highly recommended this opportunity. The program showed the research in which current graduate students are involved, helped the students develop connections within their industries, and gave the students a real introduction to the graduate school setting.

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Last updated: Tuesday, 22-Jun-2010 16:21:19 Central Daylight Time

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