Caitlin Hof, a sophomore biochemistry, biology, chemistry and psychology quadruple major at Buena Vista University from Yankton, S.D., has been accepted to the highly-competitive Sanford Program for Undergraduate Research (SPUR) in Sioux Falls, S.D. for the summer of 2012.
During this paid fellowship, Caitlin will work in the Sanford Children's Health Research Center with Dr. David A. Pearce, whose laboratory focuses on Batten's disease, a devastating childhood neurodegenerative disorder.
“I participated in a research program last summer, and I really wanted to experience it again,” says Caitlin. “I wanted to work in a more neuroscience focused lab since I think that is what I would like to do after graduation. The lab I will be working in works with a childhood neurological disease called Batten's disease. I am excited to be working in a clinically relevant lab. I think it will show me if I truly want to do clinical neuroscience research in the future. Right now that is the direction I am headed, so it will be nice to have some experience. I hope it shows me my true passion!”
Caitlin has been working with BVU science faculty to prepare for her summer at SPUR.
“The professors have been very encouraging. They were always more than happy to send another letter or look over my essay through the application process,” Caitlin says. “After I was accepted, they have also helped me learn about Batten's disease and some other things I may encounter. I have taken many science courses and I will be able to apply the things I have learned. We have awesome professors that have taught me so much.”
This is Caitlin’s second research-based fellowship. In the summer of 2011, she worked with Dr. Kristy McClellan, assistant professor of biology, at the University of Iowa’s College of Medicine FUTURE (Fostering Undergraduate Talent-Uniting Research and Education) in Biomedicine program. Together, they investigated the role of a Drosophila zinc finger transcription factor in germ line and neuronal development. Caitlin says this experience introduced her to a new possible career path in research, an avenue she will explore further in her upcoming fellowship.
McClellan believes Caitlin is prepared and equipped for her upcoming opportunity. After working closely with her in 2011, she is confident about Caitlin’s skills and work ethic.
“Having a student from BV receive a summer research fellowship is not only an opportunity for the student but is also a benefit to the University, specifically to the School of Science,” McClellan says. “Caitlin will return with a greater knowledge of research, a new laboratory skill set, and a general understanding of the graduate school process. I'm excited to hear about her experiences this summer.”