Katie Denius- NIU

Progress is progress

It took time… and a lot of waiting… But, are lab has finally scheduled a time to go in and use the Northwester Proteomics Lab. After obtaining the wet AMD tissue we needed half way through the year the next step was to test the tissue samples collected using the tools and machinery at Northwester (collaborators on this project). We are scheduled to meet with and test our sample on January 14, it will be a twelve hour day but will be well worth the wait. With the data collected from that day there will be enough information to begin publication of a paper on the differences we have found between dry and wet AMD in the past year and a half for my self and several years for my grad student. Needless to say we are both very excited!!

This experience is very different because there was less time spent learning laboratory techniques and general background knowledge, this year I just hit the ground running. And to be honest, I loved that.

Being a small group leader has been really great. By far the most challenging part is finding time where all my mentees and myself can meet, everyone is very busy. However, each of them know I am always available by phone if they ever need me! I have loved encouraging students that remind me a lot of myself last year.


Research Rookies is in full swing

So far things are going relatively well on my research project. The wet Age-Related Macular Degeneration tissue that my lab was waiting for the entire summer finally came in and so we are in the midst of analyzing it right now. Because we are partnered with Northwestern University on this project we are currently waiting to hear back from them so we can send the tissue sample on for additional testing. At their Department of Proteomics they have machines which run specialized tests on the tissue that we can’t complete at Northern on our own.

The biggest challenge in my research this far has actually been outside of the lab. I was assigned to complete a literature search and I have been having trouble finding time completing the article searches and writing about them all. The hardest part of completing the literature search is by far understanding the depth and breadth of information in each article.

As a peer mentor I am learning how to counsel my mentees and advise them on research questions and general class questions as well. It feels good to help them through this time which I remember so clearly from last year.

Keep Calm and Research On!

Right Back At It!

I am so excited to be a Research Rookie again for the 2015-2016 Academic Year, and even more I am really looking forward to being a mentor for the Biological Sciences students.

Research has been such a large part of my experience here at NIU I can’t wait to teach new students about the benefits it can have not only to your education here at NIU but on the relationships you build as well; not only with faculty members and upper-level administrators, but graduate students and other undergraduate researchers as well.

I am continuing my work on Age-Related Macular Degeneration with Dr. Elizabeth Gaillard, luckily she has decided to keep me on in her lab for another year. Writing a proposal was a lot easier the second time around. It was nice being able to use a lot of the background and general knowledge I had on the project and combine those with new ideas to formulate a new direction for the research project.

I can’t wait to see all the wonderful things this year brings to me as a student, mentor and researcher!

Keep Calm and Research On!

Katie Denius

McKearn Fellows Final Week

I would like to begin by thanking John and Cassandra McKearn for providing me with this amazing opportunity this summer. Never in  my wildest dreams did I think that I would not only have a research internship this early in my college career but also be part of such an amazing program that inspires me daily to better myself.

I am so grateful for all the experiences we got to have this summer including volunteering at Camp Power, traveling and staying in St. Louis, various career development presentations, current event topic talks, and just living together and growing as a cohort and as a community.

Completing my research project this summer has been unlike any research experience I’ve had thus far. The ability to use my research project as my full time job has taught me a lot about what it’s like to work in a lab full time. Things go wrong, machines break and sometimes “workplace gab” can get in the way but each of those things contributed greatly to the real world experience I got to have this summer. The amount of time and effort I got to put into my project greatly accelerated my knowledge of my own research topic and also about Chemistry as a whole as well.

Being a McKearn Fellow is about more than just being a researcher. Being a McKearn Fellow means you are engaged in your community, aware of the world around you and the issues it beholds, caring and involved in your university and the students in it and finally that you love your field of study and that you understand what it means to be a part of that professional group. I have learned so much this summer about how to act as a professional from career development skills, to networking, to proper dining etiquette. I can confidently say that McKearn Fellows has prepared me for my next three years at school and the rest of my life.

The best part about this experience for my cohort is that this is only the beginning.

Keep Calm and Research On!

McKearn Fellows Week 5

The excursion to St. Louis was an unforgettable experience. Between the generous hospitality of the McKearn Family and the informative explanations of the booming BioTechnology industry, there was never a dull moment. The first night we arrived we visted the McKearn’s beautiful home and had St. Louis specialties. This included, various Italian dishes, butter cake and locally brewed root beer. Throughout the evening we were provided with may opportunities to talk about our research projects and get to know Cassandra and John better as well. The next morning we went on a tour of the Danforth Center, which is a premier plant engineering facility. The Danforth Center is attempting to fight not only world-wide hunger but to improve sustainability and increase production yields as well. After this we had a wonderful lunch and we were off to the BioGenerator. Similar to RiverVest the BioGenerator invests in companies who are developing various products in the BioMedical, pharmaseutical and BioTechnology fields. The BioGenerator normally invests earlier on than most Venture Capitol firms. They however still make an average of 19 dollars for every one dollar they invest. After the tours we went to the alumni reception and Cardinals Game at Busch Stadium. It was an amazingly hot day, but Busch Stadium was alive with the spirit of St. Louis.

I was primarily nervous to meet the McKearns themselves. But after only a few minutes I felt relaxed and at ease in their home. I was also most excited to meet the McKearns so I could finally express all my gratitude for everything they have provided to me personally and this University.

I want to thank the McKearns, Joe Matty, Dr. Birberick, Dr. Freeman and Jason Goode, for making this wonderful weekend a reality.

Keep Calm and Research On!

McKearn Fellows Week 3

Shannon Wapole’s presentation was extremely informative. I learned a lot about research conduct that I didn’t know before, particularly pertaining to ownership rights. Another thing I learned about was specific people within the University that I could conduct with questions regarding research and also IRB application information.

In the science field I know it is important to protect the identity of your project because if an experiment is published to thoroughly to early it can be duplicated and potentially stolen. Although this is not an ethical thing to do, it is a sad reality that some researchers face. I would say the Chemistry field conveys ethos by always citing articles and naming co-authors. Another very popular thing to do is collaborate on projects with other professors and even with other Universities.

During my fellowship I will ensure my own ethical conduct in a few different ways. The first thing I will be sure to do is to always cite my sources and site them correctly. This way all those who contributed to my project will receive credit for their contributions. In the same spirit I will also name my Graduate Assistant and my Research Professor as co-authors. The other thing I will do to ensure I uphold ethical conduct throughout the course of my research at NIU is by attending the training sessions put on by Shannon’s office to familiarize myself with the conduct practices.

Keep Calm and Research On!


McKearn Fellows Week 1

My name is Katie Denius. I am a Biological Sciences major with a double minor in Chemistry and Public Health. This summer I will be doing research on macular degeneration. I spent this past school year working on the parthenogenesis of dry macular degeneration and will be using this summer to study the parthenogenesis of wet macular degeneration. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) it is common in elderly people and causes a loss of the central field of vision. AMD is actually recorded as the leading cause of blindness in first world countries.

This first week of research has been great for me. Because the specific tissue sample I will be working with is not making its appearance until early July I have been practicing lab techniques which I will need to know for this project and looking forward, for future projects as well. I have also been working on a lit search to help diversify and broaden my knowledge of AMD, the anatomy of the eye and specific biomarkers that have already been identified during analysis. One concern I have is not receiving the tissue sample in time to have a clear identification of the bio marker by the research symposium in August. But, I will make do with the information I have when that time comes.

My fellow Fellows are who have been making this experience amazing. Each person brings something new and intriguing to the table which is why I love this group of people so much already. I know everything is going to be alright because we are going through this experience together and will always have each other’s backs no matter what. I am looking forward to research, friendship and community engagement this summer!

I would just like to say that as hard as we are all working and as hard as it may seem we are all working towards the same goal and need to lean on each other whenever it is needed. I am so impressed by all of your dedication this far to your projects and can’t wait to hear and see them come together in the following weeks.

Keep Calm and Research On!

Katie Denius


Goodbye to Research Rookies and the Wonderful Research Rookies team

URAD felt like a whirlwind, but I enjoyed every moment of it. Making my poster was a little stressful because some of the data I needed wasn’t received from our partnering University, Northwestern, until a few days before URAD. However, thanks to the efforts of my mentor and my phenomenal graduate assistant we managed to get the poster done and my speech finalized at the last minute. I had such a great experience presenting at URAD and teaching other students about the work I have been doing all year. It was especially interesting to talk with the judges and listen to some of their questions and thoughts on the topic! But by far my favorite moment of URAD was when I was done with my judging time period and was just walking around and noticed a girl reading my poster. I know it’s kinda cheesy but it really meant a lot to me that she was interested enough in my research that she would read the poster without anyone there to explain it to her or “pull” her in. Even though I had a wonderful experience I will say I was very nervous leading up to the event, basically everyone in my lab group could attest to that. But anyway it was all for nothing because I enjoyed myself and felt completely comfortable explaining the project! This year I was selected to be a McKearn Fellow for the 2014-2018 cohort so my next steps with undergraduate research will be this summer! I will be working full time continuing my current project but taking it in a different direction than last time so more conclusive results can be reached.

Being a Research Rookie has been amazing. That’s really all I can say. It completely changed my experience here at NIU my first year and inspired me to continue onto my future career goals. I thanked a lot of people in my last post but want to again that Dr. Gaillard and her entire lab team, but especially Jennifer Tournear. I wouldn’t be here today without her. Most importantly I want to thank Lauren Boddy. She has been an amazing asset and part of the Research Rookies program. She not only answered every question I ever had but even taught me how to arm knit. I am so grateful that I got to meet her, even though it was only for a year. She has inspired me more than anyone this year and I hope when I am her age that I can be as successful and genuine as she is. I wish her all the luck in grad school and look forward to keeping in contact with her as she progresses. Thank you Research Rookies, I will never forget this experience and all the people I have met and had the pleasure of working with.

For the last time, Keep Calm and Research On!

Katie Denius


URAD or bust and a BIG thank you to everyone

Making the poster for URAD has been a little harder than I expected. Luckily I was able to use some of the information from my proposal in my poster but that meant cutting back on information that I know is pertinent to the project. Making the information fit within the poster requirements while still trying to keep it interesting (with pictures) has been by far the greatest challenge. I never thought I would be having trouble cutting back on the amount I wanted to say, especially at this level. I am most excited to talk about my research to people. When you have been working on something for this long and this hard it feels good to know you can inform others and teach them what you have learned! I am mainly nervous about the questions from professionals in either biology or chemistry. My next step is to continue my current project over the summer with Dr. Gaillard’s lab group.

As a Research Rookie I learned about responsibility, respect and awareness. I enjoyed working with the graduate students and talking with my faculty adviser. My lab group made me feel welcome and comfortable working with them, which is something a freshman working in a laboratory definitely needs. Because my research project correlates directly to my future career I can definitely say it has helped excite me more than anything else. I can’t wait to continue my research and see where this path takes me in the next three years. I want to initially thank the staff of the OSEEL office who have run this program all year and give a special shoutout to Lauren Bodde. I want to thank Lauren for never giving up on me and answering any questions I ever had, even if they were about how to arm knit! I want to thank Dr. Elizabeth Gaillard, for her guidance and helpfulness every step of the way. I want to thank Jennifer Tournear who has taught me all the lab procedures and always makes me laugh. I want to thank Michael Vega for always being there for me. I want to thank Sally for being such an amazing individual. I want to thank Kalyan for all the chocolate eggs. And finally I want to thank the other undergraduates in my lab for showing me the student I can be within the next few years. All of the people that I have worked with this year have taught me a lesson and I promise I will never forget them.


Keep Calm and Research On!

Katie Denius

April 9, 2015

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