I don’t see what’s wrong with being passionate about two different things. I like plants. I like medicine. I think the research I’ve done and the experiences I’ve had are all applicable to my med school applications.
"I grew up in this area and always knew I wanted to study biology at Bucknell. I started working in the greenhouse with Professor Chris Martine my first year. I've gotten to work on a lot of projects with him and I'll have multiple publications coming out by the time I graduate.
"I began by working on an honors project with a senior who was looking at sex-specific genes in our plants, and then I switched to DNA extractions for a larger genetics project. The genetic work is pretty neat because there are all of these species that are capable of hybridizing, and they evolved from one another relatively recently. Chris studies Australian bush tomatoes that occupy Northern Australia. They're all relatively close to each other, but isolated by various sandstone outcrops. We're using population genetics to look at how closely they're related and when were they last breeding together.
"I also got to work on this really interesting process called apomixis — asexual reproduction in plants without pollen. No one really knows how apomixis works. It kind of blows my mind that these plants just produce fruit with viable seeds without needing to be fertilized. I spent the summer in Germany working in a really nice lab. I think it's the most fun I've had.
"We were trying to find out why this specific alpine mustard species makes viable pollen, but there's been no evidence of them actually having reproduced sexually. We found out they have a very low rate of sexual reproduction — about two percent. That's pretty cool from an agricultural standpoint — if you can have 100 percent fertilization without needing to pollinate, you can really do a lot with genetic modification of plants.
"Chris is advising my honors thesis, and has been a really good mentor and friend to me. He's helped me develop a passion for plants and he looks out for all the students in the lab. I really look up to him.
"I'm also passionate about medicine, especially since my motorcycle accident last year. I went over a hill and fell straight on my back, but was lucky that my biochemistry textbook was in my backpack between me and the pavement, so I didn't hit my head too hard. I'm lucky to be here. Now, I'm working on getting my EMT certification. I got to work with the paramedic and the EMT that responded to my accident.
"I've always been interested in medicine and am planning to apply to medical school for trauma and emergency medicine in rural areas. I don't see what's wrong with being passionate about two different things. I like plants. I like medicine. I think the research I've done and the experiences I've had are all applicable to my med school applications."
Dan is from Mifflinburg, Pa.
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