Senior spotlight: Sydney Reynolds (chemistry & biology)

Sydney_ReynoldsSydney Reynolds will graduate in May 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry. Learn about her experiences at UIndy over the last four years:

Q: What are your plans following graduation?

A: I will be going to Ohio State University in the fall for pharmacy school. It is a four-year doctorate program.

Q: How did your program prepare you for the next steps in your professional life? 

A: The chemistry department at UIndy has prepared me for the next steps in my professional life not only in my coursework but also with research opportunities and making connections.

Q: What activities were you involved with during your time at UIndy? 

A: I am the president of Sigma Zeta, an honors society for science and math. For two years, I was on the executive board of the Honors Student Association. I am also a resident assistant in Greyhound Village apartments. I am in the Honors College and have been involved in research for the chemistry department since my freshman year. I just finished my honors manuscript and presented my research at Scholars Showcase on April 12th. I have been a lab assistant for the chemistry department as well. These experiences have helped me build so many great connections, especially with the chemistry faculty. The chemistry department at UIndy is amazing, and I am so grateful to have them in my life.

Q: Did you have any faculty mentors? 

A: Yes! The two main faculty mentors that I have had throughout my time at UIndy are Dr. Ann Cutler and Dr. Katherine Stickney. They have helped me immensely with not only chemistry but also with letters of recommendation and professional development. I do not know what I would have done without their support and encouragement.

Q: Final thoughts about UIndy as you prepare for graduation?

A: UIndy was the best decision I have ever made. I am sad to leave, but I know I am moving on to bigger things.

Roche Academy at the University of Indianapolis announces first cohort

Roche_Mobile500The University of Indianapolis and Roche Diagnostics, the world leader in in vitro diagnostics, are partnering to solve the talent pipeline for biomedical equipment technicians. The first Roche Academy cohort brings together eight students from Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky who will begin the program in the 2019-20 academic year. Established in 2018, the program is an innovative partnership that provides real-world training for biology and chemistry majors to create industry-ready graduates for high-demand positions with Roche Diagnostics.

The Roche Academy offers a customized curriculum and summer internship experience focused on the hands-on life science and engineering skills necessary to succeed in a career with Roche. Students will receive training and skill-building opportunities, professional development, an internship and a full-time position at Roche upon successful completion of the program. Graduates will serve a critical need to Roche’s operations as they maintain lab equipment and provide customer service across the United States.

“The Roche Academy is critical to our business. These career-ready graduates will not only bring fresh ideas to our organization but will also be mentored by tenured Roche employees to supplement our workforce with highly-skilled talent,” explained Russ Fellows, Roche Academy project leader.

Debra Feakes, dean of the Shaheen College of Arts & Sciences, said the model sets a new standard for university partnerships with industry leaders to onboard fully trained employees.

“Roche has been a fantastic collaborative partner as University of Indianapolis faculty identified a curriculum that will position students to excel in the classroom and in the field. The University is thrilled to offer students this unique opportunity to develop a career path and apply new skills in a professional setting with built-in mentorship,” said Debra Feakes, dean of the Shaheen College of Arts & Sciences.

The first cohort of students will complete a paid internship at Roche the summer of 2019 before gaining full employment at Roche in 2020. The Academy is expected to produce up top 20 biomedical equipment technicians for Roche annually.

The first cohort includes:

Brad Moon ’20 (biology major, chemistry minor); East Moline, Ill.
Megan Briley ’20 (chemistry); Martinsville, Ind.
Will Durchholz ’20 (chemistry); Evansville, Ind.
Michaela Heil ’20 (chemistry major, criminal justice minor); Indianapolis, Ind.
Kiley Kenekham ’20 (chemistry major, biology minor); Brownsville, Ind.
Michael “Blake” Chitwood ’20 (chemistry); Greenwood, Ind.
Jeffrey “Jack” Kuerzi ’20 (chemistry); Louisville, Kentucky
Victor Inglima ’20 (biology and chemistry dual major); Brownsburg, Ind.

UIndy Beyond Borders Team makes international impact

FalfurriasAs the humanitarian crisis at the southern border of the United States dominates national headlines, the University of Indianapolis Beyond Borders Team highlights the impact on human lives. Since 2013, the team has participated in “Operation Identification” in Brooks County, Texas, assisting in the exhumation of hundreds of unidentified people who died while crossing the southern border of the United States and the identification of 30 of these individuals to date.

Krista Latham, director of the UIndy Human Identification Center and associate professor of biology, leads students on the Beyond Borders Team to southern Texas every year to exhume the remains of people who have been buried without identification and, in some cases, without any grave markers. The team participates in “Operation Identification” in partnership with anthropology faculty and students from Texas State University in San Marcos.

The Beyond Borders initiative allows University of Indianapolis students to expand their field work and forensic skills as they meet the urgent need in border communities to identify the dead and help loved ones achieve closure. Hundreds have died while making the treacherous southern border crossing, and the deaths have overwhelmed local law enforcement. According to the Missing Migrant project, nearly 400 deaths were reported along the U.S.-Mexico border in 2018.

In early January 2019, the Beyond Borders Team conducted several dig sites the Sacred Heart Burial Park in Falfurrias, Texas, which is one of the areas hardest hit by the humanitarian crisis.

 Exhumed remains will be processed, analyzed and identified at Texas State University. Latham said the remains discovered in January were older burials, indicating that more burials might exist in small areas of the cemetery.

Latham explained that the Beyond Borders Humanitarian Science missions not only allow students to apply the forensic skills they’ve learned in the classroom to real-world situations, but also to better understand how their actions have far-reaching implications.

“Students are seeing how the process of exhumation and identification not only impacts the deceased and their immediate family, but how their actions can impact a community on a broader level,” Latham said.

“On this trip they are learning to apply a multitude of forensic archeological search techniques, and immersing themselves in different aspects of the humanitarian crisis at our southern border by interacting with local community members, Border Patrol and local law enforcement, individuals from various organizations that are a part of this large scale identification initiative as well as Latin American refugee families. These experiences are invaluable in their professional and personal development,” she added.

Students have been documenting their experiences on the Beyond Borders blog. Samantha Beck ’20 (human biology) described the team’s visit to the Humanitarian Respite Center, operated by the Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley in McAllen, Texas, where students donated food items and toured the facility, which provides assistance to immigrants.

Seeing the Respite Center in action showed me that the majority of the people crossing our borders have fled to our country because they think they will have the best chance at changing their fate. It was beautiful to see so many volunteers from the community that were there out of genuine care for the human lives around them, whether they were US citizens or not,” Beck said.

Arden Mower ’20 (human biology) wrote about meeting volunteers from the South Texas Human Rights Center, which hosts the Missing Migrant Hotline to provide support to families whose loved ones have gone missing. She reflected on her time in Texas as “nothing short of a life-changing experience.”

While we are gaining archaeological exhumation experience, we have also had opportunities to participate in search and recoveries work together as a team, and learn about a real humanitarian crisis that is occurring just south of our border,” Mower said. “We have met a lot of different people here in South Texas who are all doing their part to help people. It is an honor to apply the forensic skills which we have learned in our classes at UIndy to do our part for a cause which is so important.”

December 2017 Graduation: Meet Delmar Oropeza

delmaroropezaDelmar Oropeza ’17 (biology, chemistry minor, pre-pharmacy concentration), was one of two Ron & Laura Strain Honors College students who received a research grant along with her co-researcher Sierra Corbin from the Sigma Zeta National Honor Society to conduct and present research at the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) Conference in Atlanta. She is graduating in December.

Q. Congrats on your research grant from Sigma Zeta National Honor Society! What are your thoughts about receiving the grant?

A. I was pleased and thankful that Sigma Zeta was willing to fund our research. This grant meant that [co-researcher] Sierra [Corbin] and I would not have to fund our project. It was interesting to hear what professors and other students thought about our research. Most of them seemed really interested, especially because of the involvement of food.

Q. Could you briefly describe your research? What inspired you to pursue this topic?

A. We wanted to determine a procedure that could test the genotype of individuals for a portion of the gene that contains a marker for the taste preference of cilantro. We wanted to test if the way individuals perceive the taste of cilantro is genetic or not. Sierra and I enjoyed taking genetics with Dr. [Sandy] Davis (associate professor of biology), so we worked with her on our capstone/honors project. She gave us the idea, which caught our attention.

Q. How did your research experience – and Honors College in general – prepare you for the next steps in your career?

A. The research experience allowed me to expand my learning and communicative capabilities. There was a lot of reading and interpretation of papers that took place, which allowed me to expand my analytical intakes. We presented our research several times during the course of the project, and this helped me develop my public speaking skills. 

Q. What are your plans after graduation?

A. I plan to go to pharmacy school. I just submitted my pharmacy school applications to Purdue and Ferris State University. 

Q. Were you involved in any extracurricular activities as a student? If so, what were they and how did they enhance your experience?

A. I was involved with Chemistry Club, Sigma Zeta, Biology Club, Pre-Professional Club, College Mentors and I currently have a part-time job as a pharmacy technician at Wal-Mart Pharmacy. These activities enhanced my abilities to balance school, clubs and work. I think being in multiple associations and organizations has made me into a better student as well as a better organizer and manager of time in my daily life.  

Q. Were there any faculty, staff or fellow students who helped you during your time as a student?

A. There have been numerous professors and students who have helped guide my education. I would like to thank Dr. [Sandy] Davis, Dr. [Jim] Williams, Dr. [Kevin] Gribbins, Dr. [Doug] Stemke, Dr. [Marc] Milne, and Sierra Corbin for encouragement and advice during my years at the University of Indianapolis. Professors have served as advisors and mentors with not only schoolwork, but life-long decisions and career options as well. 

Q. Why would you recommend UIndy to prospective high school students?

A. I would recommend UIndy because the small classroom setting gives students the opportunity to know their professors. My advice to incoming freshmen is to not get overwhelmed during the first semester. And if such thing does happen, talk to your professors because they care about your education as much as you do. 

Q. Any other big takeaways or observations as you approach graduation?

A. I am super excited to graduate. I am ready for the next step, and now I am just anxiously waiting to start learning in depth about my future career!


Read about other 2017 December graduates.

Learn about 2017 December graduation

December 2017 Graduation: Meet Sierra Corbin

sierracorbinSierra Corbin ’17 (biology major, chemistry minor) talks about her experience in the Ron & Laura Strain Honors College. She and co-researcher Delmar Oropeza ’17 received a research grant from the Sigma Zeta National Honor Society to conduct and present research at the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) Conference in Atlanta. Once she graduates in December, she plans to enter a physician assistant program.

Q. How did the Sigma Zeta grant assist in your research?

A. I was thankful about receiving the grant, because it paid for a lot of materials we needed to order for our project. The experience presenting at the conference was beneficial. We received feedback from judges so that we could improve our skills of presenting scientific research. It was also quite interesting to see what other students around the United States study.

Q. Could you briefly describe your research?

A. Our research analyzed the DNA of individuals that liked and disliked cilantro. Using the information and the procedure Delmar and I conducted, I wrote a laboratory procedure for undergraduate level students to use in genetics courses.

Q. How did your research experience – and Honors College in general – prepare you for the next steps in your career?

A. The research and presentation experience prepared me for learning how to explain to others who may not have as much knowledge about a particular topic, what is happening in a given situation. When I become a physician assistant, I am sure I will need to explain to patients what an illness may be, what caused it and how to treat it. If I do not end up going to graduate school to become physician assistant, I probably will go into research of some kind. Completing undergraduate research allowed me to become familiarized with the equipment and techniques I would need in my future.

Q. Were you involved in any extracurricular activities as a student?

A. I participated in UIndy for Riley and worked off campus, which took up a lot of my free time. Learning the skill of time management was essential and helped me become well rounded. Working also helped me get many of the clinical hours that physician assistant programs require.

Q. Were there any faculty, staff or fellow students who helped you during your time as a student?

A. Dr. [Sandy] Davis (biology) helped me tremendously through this project. She helped me in learning an abundance of knowledge about genetics. Also, Dr. [Marc] Milne (biology) was an awesome mentor and professor my freshman year, encouraging me to follow the biology route I had set for myself. Dr. [Kathy] Stickney was another professor who genuinely cared about her students performance and would go above and beyond for her students. I will never forget when she stayed at school until 2:00 a.m. helping students edit a paper and learn material.

Q. Would you recommend UIndy to prospective high school students?

A. UIndy is an awesome school, and is much better than some bigger schools in professor-student ratios. I have a few friends at large universities who cannot get appropriate help when they are struggling in a class. At UIndy, the teachers genuinely care about our academic success. Some of our courses definitely are harder than they would be at other schools, but that makes us more prepared.


Read about other 2017 December graduates.

Learn about 2017 December graduation