Tales from Mercer: Summer research solidifies student’s goals for the future


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Kelsy Cotto will be pursuing a career in biomedical research

Conner Wood, Editor in Chief

For one senior at Mercer University, her summer spent researching DNA sequences was a summer well spent.

And Kelsy Cotto is not alone in her research pursuits during the summer months.

Besides internships and jobs under the blazing sun, many Mercer students took on the challenge and dedicated their summer researching in a variety of fields in the United States and abroad.

Kelsy Cotto, a senior at Mercer who will be pursuing a career in biomedical research, said through e-mail correspondence that she spent her summer in St. Louis, updating a database that catalogs DNA sequences to identify possible recurrent mutations in human breast cancer.

Cotto was an Amgen Scholar at the Washington University School of Medicine. Each university that hosts Amgen Scholars has their own application and selection process.

She found the program on her own.

“But I had a lot of support from the chemistry department, especially Dr. Crawford and Dr. Bucholtz,” she said

She said her time spent as an Amgen Scholar solidified her career path because she got to witness how tools are used within cancer research.

“This experience further confirmed that a career in biomedical research is the correct career path for me,” Cotto said. “I got to meet new people, see new cities and explore new areas of research.”

Not all students have to do as Cotto did and use their own devices and resources to find research opportunities that suit their needs.

Kevin Bucholtz, the director of undergraduate research, has the tools to connect students with possible research opportunities, like he did for Cotto.

David Davis, Mercer’s director of fellowships and scholarships, said participating in any summer research program is something to be proud of.

“These summer research experiences are competitive awards, so earning one is in itself an accomplishment,” Davis said in an e-mail. “And the students who earn these awards gain the experience of working for several weeks as a researcher.”

On top of all the hard work, Cotto said she made time to have fun too.

“St. Louis has a lot to offer,” she said. “I got to go up into the arch, attend a Cardinals game and see a polar bear for the first time.

Last summer Cotto conducted research at Texas A&M.

With two summers of research under her belt, she recognizes the value in networking with people from diverse backgrounds through her experiences.

“The people I met this summer will be friends and colleagues in my future, both personally and career-wise,” she said.

Davis agreed with Cotto on the value of summer research experiences.

“Because of this experience, these students are exceptionally well prepared for applications to graduate or professional school or for other fellowship opportunities,” Davis said.

“I believe that if anyone has the opportunity to participate in summer they should do it,” Cotto said. “I think I grew both personally and professionally.”

Several other Mercer students participated in the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates program. These students include Tyler Allee, Jonathan Beall, Brian Davidson, Britney Hudson, Jennifer Nguyen, Brandon Reagon, Faariyah Sheikh, Kiara Smith and Sara Stover.

Also, Stephen Hayden Williams is an engineering student who had a DAAD — a German academic exchange service — Research Internship in Science and Engineering (RISE) grant to study in Stuttgart, Germany.