Katie Denius- NIU

McKearn Blog 7

I have began shadowing an ophthalmologist named Dr. Friedrichs. He works out of an office in DeKalb and has offered me a lot of wonderful advice and guidance. Shadowing is a very important aspect of the pre-professional education track because it gives students a good idea for what the lifestyle and work environment of various specialists in the medical field is like. I enjoyed watching Dr. Friedrichs interact with new patients and veteran patients alike. Being a doctor that help people regain vision seems so rewarding. One thing I learned from my day shadowing was that becoming an ophthalmologist may not be an option for me because of my vision. In order to conduct surgery the doctor must have perfect vision because the difference between a millimeter depth and 2 millimeters in depth within the eye can be detrimental to the patients sight. Although this isn’t great news because I am so passionate about vision and good vision care I am still going to continue my research within the visual field and stay engaged. Because you never know what the future can hold.



Farewell Research Rookies

Unfortunately I was not able to present at URAD this year, I came down with pneumonia and was in the hospital. My poster however still made it to the event and I had good feedback from faculty and friends.

Now that I am done with my second year of research and reflecting on my experience I have learned so much about perseverance, mentoring and professional conduct. I am going to continue my project into the summer and throughout next year but I will definitely miss being a part of the Research Rookies program. I think my favorite part has been getting to know such a wonderful and diverse group of motivated students.

I want to in closing thank the staff of OSEEL, without all of you none of this would have been possible. You are truly an amazing group of people.

Final Cohort Meeting…

     This is a sad day. I just went to my final Research Rookies meeting as a participant. All though I know I have many more RR meetings coming my way I am sad that this chapter of my life is coming to a close. Research Rookies has provided me with so much and contributed greatly to my success here at NIU. I just wanted to say thank you now before URAD and before all the craziness of presentations, to OSEEl, to my research mentor and to the grad students who make research accessible and fun!

My academic goals are to continue in school until I have earned my Bachelor’s of Biological Sciences and then I hope to go to medical school in the Chicago-land area. I want to specialize in pediatric ophthalmology! Undergraduate research has helped me in so many ways, the most important being extending my knowledge of the biochemistry of the human eye past what I could have ever learned in a classroom.

McKearn Blog 6

This semester I have been involved in a community engagement project through Northern Lights Ambassadors. There is a professor at NIU who runs a school for girls in Africa called the Jane Adney Memorial School. Each NLA member is reaching out to clubs and organizations we are involved in and are all collecting resources for the school. We had the option to raise money or collect goods, we chose the latter. When donating goods people often feel like they are having a larger impact because they know their donation is going to good use- sometimes it is hard to tell with a monetary donation where exactly your contribution is going.

Therefore we are distributing boxes all over campus where we will be asking for hygiene items such as toothbrushes and toothpaste, shampoo and body wash and feminine hygiene project. We hope by donating these supplies we can help reduce cost for the JAMS in the coming year.

This dispersion of goods will have a large impact on the young women who go to the JAMS and may even free up enough money to fund another in need girl to go to school there. This project is a wonderful example of how big of an impact a group of people can make when they come together and work towards a common goal.

March-ing Forward


My research project is going extremely well. I plan on being finished with data analysis for the portion I am presenting at URAD by the end of this week, I will however be continuing my project in the following summer months. I am currently working on a project involving and ECM in invitro RPE cells. I have really enjoyed this experiment because it has given me a chance to really connect my Biology major with my research (completed in the Chemistry Dept.).

This year Research Rookies has helped me grow immensely as an academic and as an individual. Continuing my research project in my lab for a second year has opened up so many opportunities for me. One of which is to travel to a national research conference for the American Society of Photobiologists in May. There I will be presenting my research alongside many of the other graduate students from my lab. The program has also provided me with the wonderful experience of being a mentor.

Cultural Immersion Experience

When I was a junior in High School I went on an amazing adventure to Argentina. I spent six weeks there learning their language, going to school and immersing myself in their amazing culture and sense of national pride. Although not all my experiences were completely positive I learned more about the importance of acceptance and the power of perseverance that summer than I had in my entire life.

Their culture was very centered around family, food, fiestas and  siestas. Unlike here in the United States Argentinians eat 4 meals per day: Breakfast, Lunch, Merienda and Dinner (which isn’t served until 10:00 PM most nights). Argentinians like to stay up late, they are able to do this because in their culture it is customary to come home in the afternoon and take an hour or two long nap. During this time, the siesta, all the businesses close down and restaurants go on a break. It is an interesting tradition that varies so much from anything here in the United States.

Being culturally aware is extremely important because it teaches acceptance. Having been in a place that was completely knew and foreign, not speaking the native tongue was hard. Which is why I try here to be understanding and take time to communicate with people where English is their second language.

RR Update

The best part about having an engaged faculty mentor is knowing there is always someone there to lead you in the right direction and encourage you inside and outside of the lab. My research is going well I am currently working on an RPE (retinal pigment epithelial) cell project that requires complete and total sterilization. It has been a great experience for me because I have learned a lot about working with cells and the special care it takes to do so. I am for my other project somewhat on track with my timeline, but unfortunately until Northwestern fixes their machine we are kind of at a stand still on the biomarker project. This summer I plan on working in the lab on and off as a volunteer and am also going to an international conference for the American Society of Photobiologists in May! There I will be presenting my research from this and previous years. After that I am going on a study abroad to Ireland! I am so excited because the trip focuses on Public Health which is exactly what I am planning on going into in the future.

Being a peer mentor has been a great experience I have really enjoyed mentoring my small group. I believe I am a good listener and that when my students are in need of something I am always there to help them. They also know they can ask me a question about anything they’re having trouble with whether it is research related or not. Something I want to work on is having meetings that are more fun and engaging for my mentees. This semester I am going to make my group meetings more fun!


Research and Personal Progress Report

Research is going relatively well. It was very exciting during first semester when we got the tissue we needed to continue the experiment. However, since then we have been doing a lot of waiting to use the machinery located at our partner facility Northwestern University. A portion of the mass spectrometer there is broken and it just so happens to be a part of the machine that we need data from. So until that machine gets fixed and we receive data back from their department running there sample it has been pretty slow around the lab. The graduate student I work with however is staying positive and talking about publishing a paper sometime before the end of next year!

I have learned a lot about the importance of patience in the academic world. It can be frustrating when you have this great idea that you have to wait on. But I think that anticipation is all a part of the game here.

I have learned a lot this semester about analyzing mass spectrometery data, which will greatly help me while presenting my posters at conferences.

My piece of advice to new students is to remember this is the only the beginning of your research experience here at Northern, if you want it to be. Keep working hard and communicating with your adviser to ensure a place in their lab in the following years.

Excited… Or nervous.. I don’t know

Oh next semester… It is only one week away…

Well, I am excited but as the semester gets closer I can’t help but feel really nervous as well. My class schedule is extremely demanding and I know I am going to feel overwhelmed at more than one time throughout the year. Despite this I can’t help but feel excited because it means I will be one step closer to my degree, grad school, my career and then my professional life. It’s going so fast I can barely believe it…

Next semester I will still be involved with NLA, Research Rookies, the Honors Program, Alpha Phi, intramural soccer, PROMISE Scholars and McKearn Fellows. I have also taken on a leadership position in Alpha Phi as the, Vice President of Programming and Education. I am very excited to see what this semester’s extra-curricular activities have in store for me!!

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