Episode Notes | Episode Transcript | AskTheGuest
Kayla and Davis Suisse pursued undergraduate research at Utah State University. Kayla is a graduating senior majoring in Biology and David is majoring in PreMedical Studies and Global Communication.
Kayla and David explored a variety of science and humanities courses as part of their undergraduate program, For almost 3 years, they engaged in research on the medicinal benefits of sagebrush that grows in the wild around their campus.
As part of that research, they created protocols to extract the essence from the plant,
They tested with different types of bacteria and demonstrated their growth or lack of growth when it touched the extract. They also got the opportunity to present their research to state and national senators.
Hi-Fives from the Podcast are:
Episode Title: Kayla and David Suisse on Utah State: Undergraduate Research on Medicinal Benefits of Sagebrush, and Discovering Humanities.
In High School, Kayla loved every course she took. She was quite stressed trying to figure out what course to pursue. David on the other hand, was pretty set on studying medicine early on. He loved the Sciences.
Kayla and David join us on our podcast to share their Undergraduate Research experiences, their work with Sagebrush-based research, and their college journey at Utah State University.
In particular, we discuss the following with them:
Topics discussed in this episode:
Our Guests:Kayla Suisse is a graduating Senior majoring in Biology from Utah State University.
David Suisse is a graduating Senior majoring in Global Communication and Pre-Medical Studies from Utah State University.
Memorable Quote: “...people will tell us, well, you're gonna have to pick one. You can't just have so many interests and be able to do all those things. I disagree. I see places where I wish that this professional had this skill, you know. I'll meet with a doctor and say, Wow, I really wish that they had greater communication or writing skills…”. David & Kayla.
Episode Transcript: Please visit Episode’s Transcript.
Similar Episodes: College Experiences
Transcript of the episode’s audio.
I was embarrassed. I was really embarrassed, and I didn't want to do it again. My professor came to the lab and I said Dr. Kaundal. I'm really sorry. And I showed her what I did. And she didn't even give it a second glance like she she just looked at me and she said, David with each step we will learn. It's totally fine. Just try it again and walked out.
Hello! I am your host Venkat Raman.
Kayla and David Suisse graduating seniors at Utah State University.
In High School Kayla loved every course she took.
She was quite stressed trying to figure out what career to pursue.
Then she took AP Biology and did lab work as a rising senior which then pushed her further towards Biology.
David on the other hand, was pretty set on studying medicine early on.
He loved the Sciences.
He knew what he liked. If he didn’t like a course, he was very quick to quit.
Venkat Raman 1:22
Kayla and David join us on our podcast to share their Undergraduate Research experiences, their work with Sagebrush-based research, and their college journey at Utah State University.
Before we jump into the podcast, here are the High-Fives, Five Highlights from the podcast:
I jumped pretty quickly into a major of global communication. So I like I did intercultural communication, it's in linguistics. And I've always wanted to medicine and I'd seen some of the humanities is kind of secondary, but it quickly became kind of my main focus. And I've really enjoyed it.
[Why Utah State?]
But ultimately, I came because it is a research based school and I knew that was I had done an internship in high school that was largely research base. And I knew that whatever I want to go into I hadn't quite figured it out yet, but I at the time, I knew I want it to be at least a little bit of research.
And she said that she had heard about Sagebrush's cousin, which is in urban China that has been used before, they were doing research on if you can treat cancer or not. So she got so excited at the side of sagebrush. And I was just so confused because I just grew up knowing that sagebrush was nothing special. So she said, I really want to see like there are Native American practices, and some medicinal practices where they use us for treatment on a lot of different ailments. And I want to see if there's anything legit in that. And she kind of started me on it, and then I pulled David in on it.
[The Impact of UG Research]
I very rarely will hit a point in a class where I say this isn't useful anymore. This that used to happen to me all the time, right? Where I said, Oh, this doesn't really apply to me. Having some hands on experience and in both humanities and in science. I don't say that anymore.
[Advice for High Schoolers]
was the ability to find and keep mentors and mentorships. Whether that's being able to, you know, be uncomfortable going up to your professor going up to your teacher going up to a more experienced student and saying, Hey, I like Kayla was saying, I have an issue with this. I'm having a hard time with this. Will you teach me?
Venkat Raman 3:43
These were the Hi5s, brought to you by College Matters. Alma Matters.
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Venkat Raman 3:54
Now, I'm sure you want to hear the entire podcast with Kayla and David. So without further ado, here are Kayla and David Suisse!
Venkat Raman 4:04
Kayla, David, welcome to the podcast, college matters. My mother's thank you so much for making the time looking forward to hearing about your undergraduate research and also about general experience at Utah State. So thank you for joining me today.
Thanks for having us.
Absolutely, absolutely. Okay, so. So maybe what we should start off with is maybe, Kayla, you want to kick it off with a general sort of overview of your undergraduate experience at Utah State. Just give us some highlights and general impressions that you might have.
Yeah, so I actually started here in fall of 2016. And I did a year before taking a year and a half leave to do some volunteer work and then I came back to finish my degree. I actually still Started out in molecular biology. And I eventually switched to just normal biology. But I ended up focusing in on my genetics classes, and I ended up along the way, also adding a minor and anticipatory intelligence and in Asian studies, just kind of collecting interests as I went through. And then I started research my freshman year and have stuck with it ever since.
Venkat Raman 5:24
Awesome. How about you, David?
David S 5:27
Yeah, so I started out the same semester, that's actually where we met was that fall of 2016. I started out in global communication will just kind of exploratory finding out what I wanted to do. And then I also did a two year volunteer leave. And then when I got back, I jumped pretty quickly into a major of global communication. So I like I did intercultural communication, it's in linguistics, and I've always wanted to medicine and I'd seen some of the humanities is kind of secondary, but it quickly became kind of my main focus. And I've really enjoyed it. So I ended on some minors, linguistics and French and I did that anticipatory intelligence program as well as Kala, and stuck with some of my biology and chemistry as well. So it's been really fun. And, um, as far as research goes, I actually got involved with one of the same projects that Kayla was already involved with. So she gave us a good name. And then I jumped in with her. And then when on my other project, I started talking to a presser professor about a year and a half ago and have really, really enjoyed that as well. So.
Venkat Raman 6:42
Why did you guys come to Utah State? How did that happen?
I came because largely, I had a really good scholarship here. And I always heard really good things about it. A lot of family friends have gone here and only had good things to say. But ultimately, I came because it is a research based school. And I knew that was I had done an internship in high school that was largely research base. And I knew that whatever I want to go into I hadn't quite figured it out yet. But I at the time, I knew I want it to be at least a little bit of research. So that was a really big pull for me to come here.
Venkat Raman 7:17
How about you, David?
David S 7:18
Yeah, my family is from the area. So they've I mean, I think my grandparents went here too. So that was a big pull, we definitely have always been an Aggie family. That's our that's our mascot for the for the school. But I Yeah, it was just it was one of my top schools because like a like I don't leave or had heard good things about it. And everything has stood up to the to what was said. So that's great.
Venkat Raman 7:48
Maybe a little bit about your interests. What were each what would you know, each of you What did you guys do in high school? What kind of things interested you? And yeah, just to share a little bit about that.
When we you do like those quizzes that they make you do and like exploratory things and try find out what career fit for you and always give me the most random answers because I liked everything. So I was really stressed like, through like, beginning of the end of high school about trying to pick what I liked, because I liked so many things. But ultimately, I kind of I mentioned before, so I had done a AP Biology class my sophomore year, and our teacher was really, really, really difficult. And a lot of people really hated the class. And I ended up loving the challenge and like kind of rising up to it. So I kind of like already knew I was leaning towards biology.
And then I did that internship after my junior year. And I think that was incredibly valuable for me, because with lab work, I think you can either love it or you hate it. And if I hated it, it would have been so good to know that before I committed to it. Really kind of turning point for me was doing that lab work and loving it so much and realizing like I could do this for less my life. And that's kind of what led me towards biology.
Venkat Raman 9:03
So why, you know, once you tried it, you liked it. But why did you think research was your thing?
And always just kind of like the idea of like, I've always been interested in genetics and things like that. But actually this internship we had. I don't remember how it got set up. But it was with the University of Idaho aquaculture research center up in Idaho. That's where I grew up. And that super difficult biology class I did. We did a tour through there. I can't remember exactly why but we did. And I had just like never been in a laboratory setting before like that, and it really intrigued me. So then our school requires senior projects to graduate. So when it came to that point, I kind of thought back to that lab and then I ended up working with them again for that project.
Venkat Raman 9:55
Cool. So David, what were you like in high school?
David S 10:02
That's a good question. I'm not, I'm not sure that I was as focused as Kayla. So I enjoyed high school I, I was pretty set on medicine. That was what I wanted to do. So I took like some anatomy and physiology classes, I took some some college level medical terminology classes through Weaver State, which is was my local college. And did. Yeah, a lot like I did an EMT class. And I was pretty heavy into the sciences. And it's actually pretty funny. I took a, like a concurrent enrollment, like a college level communication course. And I transferred out the first week because I hated it. And then that ended up being my major, and really where my interests have lied, and but I don't know if I was really focused on on just doing medicine and science, and I wanted that to be my thing. And I have changed a lot since then. So it says something about trying a lot of things and giving things time before you decide they're not for you.
That's a great point that you raised. Very briefly. I mean, what do you think, you know, you said you opted out of the communications class, like within a week, but later on, you were ready to try things longer. And you discovered, you know, a whole bunch of things like you mentioned, that were outside of science that you liked, so what do you think? What do you think happened? Or how did that happen?
David S 11:37
Yeah, well, the first thing, my let's see, this would have been my first semester, I think, I took I took it in their personal communication course with a professor here on campus who's just known for, for being a great professor for being really inclusive and having really discussing classes. And so I took that class, and I really enjoyed it, I really, really enjoy that. So that was, that was an interpersonal, calm class. And then, after a couple of semesters, I started getting involved with some other courses that talked a lot about like, marginalization and, and social justice issues and inequality. And that was so intriguing to me, it was not something that I'd never thought about, you know, I'm from a very privileged family and community, and it wasn't something that I ever jump into. And so to hear that and talk about, you know, issues that, that people deal with, and talk about things like things like race and things like in access to health care, and I said, Wow, medicine isn't complete without an understanding of these things. So I kind of jumped into that. And that kind of actually became more of my focus. So I really should write an apology letter to my communication teacher back. That I did not give her the time that she deserved.
And that first interpersonal conquest that would been one of your generals was on it. Is that
David S 13:05
that was a Gen Ed. Yeah. Is it? Like, are you now? Yeah, it really worked out.
Venkat Raman 13:17
So you guys show up at Utah State? Each one of you? How did you get into research on campus? Kayla? Maybe you want to go first?
Yeah, um, looking back on it. It's kind of funny to me now. Knowing more things I do, but I actually, Utah State is so research base, it's so focused on undergraduate research. And now I'm thinking about, it's probably because I was living in an honors dorm. And a lot of my friends are in biology. So it hit my second semester of college my spring of freshman year. And I was under the impression that I was behind, because I was not yet in research. And all my friends were in it their first semester. So I was panicking. So I thought I was gonna be behind because I wasn't doing it yet. And now that I, I now realized that that's not the typical experience for a lot of other universities. But at Utah State, that's absolutely like, if you want to be in it, you can be in it because they love their undergrad, so much. So I kind of went to my second semester, panicking and like just grasping at straws, like I was emailing professors at their room and things like that. And they were all really nice. And even if they didn't have room, they would allow me to like come to their lab meetings. Currency was about but I ended up going to one of my professors and I got to work in her lab a little bit and they were based they were doing a lot of cancer research. But I ended up getting paired up with one of the graduate students because I was into cellular biology. They just trained me really intensely on cell culturing because we knew I was gonna be leaving after that semester for my leave of absence. And they were like, these are skills we'll we'll take it with you wherever so they really just kind of like put this little program together for me and just had me for cuz just on that my second semester, which looking back was really cool at the time, I was panicking. But looking back, it's really cool that they did that for me.
Venkat Raman 15:08
No, it's pretty amazing that you jumped into it in your first year in your freshman year. So that's...
really Yeah. I thought I was behind. I was like, no one's gonna hire me. It's only my second semester. Um, but then after I got back from my leave of absence, I kind of had narrowed down a little more why like to do. So I was scrolling through, like job listings, and like open lab openings, and things like that. And that's how I got into the research lab. I've been in for the last three years. And that's actually a it's in the agriculture college. But she does a lot of cross disciplinary work, and ended up doing a lot of a lot of research. So I've kind of hopped in there, and I've been there ever since.
Venkat Raman 15:51
Cool. We'll get into it in a bit. So David, tell us how you got into research here.
David S 15:56
Yeah, so I think I mentioned this a little bit previously. But so it was the summer after my second semester, when Kayla at that point, we had just gotten married. And Kayla jumped into this research lab with our agricultural science professor, and she was there for what one day, and she came home. And she was like, wow, this is really cool. And, you know, I love this professor, and I love this research. And I said, Well, hey, I need to do research. You could ask her if I could join. She asked. And she said yes. And we've been there ever since. And we've each done our own massive projects. And it's kind of become a you know, we've got a fan in our own niches. But I that one is, I really leap to, to Kayla to have coffee into our lab experience. And then on my other project that I've been working on, I took a class on, on health disparities with a professor that I really liked. And afterward, she reached out and she said, Hey, I have this research that I'm doing. And then you know, again, Utah State with their their focus on undergraduate research, she said, I would love some undergrads to help me out. So if anyone has time, so I reached out to her and, and that kind of just took off. So that's been a big interest of mine as well.
Venkat Raman 17:18
Maybe, if each one of you could tell us a little bit about your research, you know, what is it? What kind of quote unquote successes you might have seen? And where is it going? I understand that you are graduating, but where do you think that's going? That might be going? Yeah, yeah, go ahead. Sorry.
I can probably start on my separate little project in this class, or in this laboratory. And then David can talk about his health disparities one, we our main project we actually did together so that we could probably both jump in on that in the end if that's cool. See, David. Yeah, works for me.
Okay, so I started in this lab, and it's in the plant, soil and climate department, again, a totally different college from what I'm in, but they love their undergraduates. And if you want to do something, they're not going to stop you. So I joined this was a new professor, Dr. Amita, Kaundal, we adore her. And she, she had just come to the school was working on building up a lab and she said, if I'm not here to teach, then what am I doing? So she was really pulling for undergraduates to come in. And I just kind of jumped in and just started whatever she put me on. And she ended up putting me on a project to it was some propagation of vectors for gateway cloning, just to make sure that they hadn't mutated. And that was kind of what I worked on for a while to just build up my, my individual lab skills and to be more independent in the lab, she just kind of we go off on that to like, got really comfortable in a lab setting. And then we start on this other project that David, which we'll get to in a second.
David S 18:48
This project that I have gotten involved with, with my comm professor. So he's also a new professor. So I've been working with a doctor's O'Shay and Dr. Jones, or Dr. Phillips here in the College of Humanities. So they do work with healthcare disparities. And then specifically, we look at the experiences the individuals who use substances and individual mental illness, who visit the emergency department for their for their issues, the stigma that they feel and the effects of that has so so the, the kind of the negative perceptions that they feel off of professionals and the effect that has on their treatment. Right. So, you know, as individuals feel judged, and feel like they're not being treated appropriately. We want to you know, does that affect how their treatment adherence does that affect their patient satisfaction? So we kind of have put together like a mixed methods. So with a survey and interviews and my job has largely been writing I've done a lot of writing and I Hang up proposals for helping with grants. And so I'll be doing this summer and writing up about the project. But that has been a lot of fun to learn about, you know, kind of be hands on and be able to have some some time on the phone as well with these individuals talking about their experiences in the emergency department and, and how they're, how they put together their identities, right, and how that affects real life health care outcomes. So that's been really, really fun and really applicable.
Venkat Raman 20:30
So is this a study? Is it more like a survey and data gathering?
David S 20:36
Exactly. Yeah, that's it's super different from the other research we've been doing. So it was a really, it was, it's been more recent than this lab research. So it was a lot a lot, kind of a, like a jump for me to a learning curve. There's the word to be worth, you know, putting together a survey and asking people if they could do interviews, and there's definitely more of like a certification process with the IRB that needs to happen when you're working with people versus bacteria in plants. So that that was
Venkat Raman 21:16
quite a lot different. So great. So So you guys take the data. And then, you know, you mentioned some proposals and grants to work on solutions or to gather more data or...?
David S 21:31
largely data gathering at this point, right? So so we, we put out these surveys, we actually got more than 1000 valid responses to our most most recent surveys. So that was really cool. One of our professors is this quantitative genius. So she put together all these statistical models, and I was surprised at how much statistics is in, in humanities, if that's what you're used to, you can have both. So, so yeah, so we put together the statistical models and started looking at trends. And we're pretty surprised by what we saw. And then now we've moved into like an interview style. So so we'll meet with people who are willing to meet with us, we'll kind of dive into their specific feelings and their identity and look at some of the responses that they put on their survey and expand those in an interview. And then after that, the other goal is to come up with, you know, hey, here are our results and present it to healthcare professionals and say, Hey, your patients are feeling and saying this, here's some things that you can do to make them feel more comfortable. That's kind of what the end goal is, what some of our grants are, are requiring as well.
Venkat Raman 22:36
Venkat Raman 22:42
Okay, so now let's talk about your joint research project.
Yes, this one has kind of been the overarching project of our entire undergraduate careers. This one started, I think, the first summer that we were doing research in this lab with Dr. Kaundal. So almost three years ago, we were going on a, one of our graduate students needed more plant specimens for her for her project. So we are going on a hike through the canyon that's just right off campus. And we got about halfway up and our professor who is who's from India, and kind of stopped was like, Hey, is the sagebrush, and we're like, yeah, like sagebrush is. I mean, I don't know about any Ralston country, but in Idaho and Utah, like it's just sagebrush everywhere, like it's a sea of sagebrush, we're like, yeah, that's seeds. There's absolutely nothing special. And she said that she had heard about sagebrush is cousin, which is an urban China that has been used before, they were doing research on if you can treat cancer or not. So she got so excited at the side of sagebrush, and I was just so confused, because I just grew up knowing that sagebrush was nothing special. So she said, I really want to see like, there are Native American practices, and some medicinal practices where they use us for treatment on a lot of different ailments. And I want to see if there's anything legit in that. And she kind of started me on it. And then I pulled David in on it. And we've been going with that question ever since and we've just been working so hard for so many years to work out all this research. It's been really cool.
David S 24:13
Well, wow, yeah. So I guess to take off from there. So basically, we put together like a methodology and a project proposal. And again, it's, it's I think some of those writing skills are just as useful as some of the laboratory skills to be honest. And so that's been that was something new to learn. But we basically we collected sagebrush samples from, it's this cute Canyon called Green Canyon, that's right next to us, very local, and we dried out some leaves and some flowers and some twigs and then we crush them up in the lab and we use we use methanol and a couple other substances to extract basically the, the essence of the plant. Right. So everything that's in that plant, we ended up with kind of syrupy substance, we evaporated methanol, and we ended up with kind of a. Yeah, and sagebrush essence is what I liked, basically just this crude crude sagebrush mixture. And you know, it's got everything, it's like a dark green, and it smells really good. So that was then we, we prepared these discs, these filter paper discs and soaked them in this extract, and we played it against a whole bunch of different bacteria and pathogens. Everything from E. coli to vassula, subtilis. I just recently did a trial with Staphylococcus aureus. So it's an actual human pathogens. And yeah, anyway, so we played it against these bacteria. And we saw that bacteria were able to grow or weren't able to grow when touching this, this extract, right? So I wish I can show you some of our results. But basically, we have what we call the zone of inhibition around each of extracts, so the bacteria totally wasn't able to grow around our extract. So we showed that there's something in this extract that kills bacteria, and it's not been reported anywhere else in any of the research that we were able to find. So that was kind of like the preliminary testing. Since then, we've moved on to looking at, you know, how, you know, what, what is it that's causing that, kind of breaking it into pieces, and, and a little detective mystery hunt for the substance or, or substances that are killing bacteria, right. So that's been kind of a more intensive process and trying to figure out what's in there. But that's what we've been up to, and probably where we'll jump out of the project and leave it up to new new students. But that's been really fun.
Yeah, and since starting this, we've actually, we first, after, like, our first couple of months working on this, we got to present our research at the Utah conference for undergraduate research. And I thought that moves deal. And then since then, you've actually presented to our state senators, we've presented to the National Conference for undergraduate research. And if you had told me at the beginning of this, or at the beginning of my college experience, that that's what I'd be doing, I would not have believed you at all, I am just absolutely astounded at where this research has taken us. I I would have never believed it.
David S 27:29
One of the cool people we got to talk to we presented to our national senators as well, and our representatives from Utah, and I surprised at how interested they were in, in a native plant like I, I swear they're their office wheels, when we when we told them what we were doing. They were just so psyched to hear to hear about a plant that they have grown up with and have loved so much so that you know, local interests stay true no matter where you end up.
Venkat Raman 28:00
I was just thinking about the way it started, right, you guys were out. I don't know if it was a hike or
David S 28:11
I was carrying our collection materials. So I was I was very tired.
Venkat Raman 28:18
And, you know, and you know, it's such a happenstance thing, and it just leads to so much. I mean, so much good work, and so many possibilities, right. So that's yeah,
I would have never guessed. And this one was actually a really cool, kind of distinct experience. Because when I was in high school, and I was working on the internship, obviously, I was like 17. So the professor was kind of just walking me through everything. And I kind of like as I went, when I do new experiences, I'm, I've always just had a lot of like, worry about messing up. And it's something I've had to work through. But like, and, and Dr. Connell did not do that with us with this project. But she said, Okay, here's an idea. If you like it, here's a lab, go for it. Let me know if you need anything. So David, I had to put this protocol together all by ourselves, we had to do all the project design all by ourselves, and just use our, our instructor, our lab professor as a resource rather than someone that's guiding us through it. And that was such explorable we've grown so much from us, because we had to figure it out by ourselves.
David S 29:20
Yeah, she and I remember one time where we had this because we used a couple of protocols that we found, and none of it was working very well. And at one point, I think the protocol we were using was originally for like turmeric or something. So it wanted us to manually squeeze our samples and to extract and I was like this is super impractical my fingers were getting. And so I thought back and I said well, you know what we just I just learned about this vacuum filtration technique in my organic chemistry lab. And so I asked my fair I was like, Do you Do you think we could order some of this material and she's like, yep, done. hours of work and some very sore fingers. So it's we're actually we're going to be putting Let's shake our methodology separately from the project because we put a lot of
work and sweat.
Venkat Raman 30:10
No, I think I think this is great. This is great. I mean, it's a, it's a great story. It's, you know, amazing. Amazing what a little hike and bring.
Venkat Raman 30:26
I know that you guys are going to jump off the project. I mean, would you like to take it forward? Or do you guys think this is a good point to move on?
I mean, we'll probably person be moving on just because we're moving away from where universities at. And but we'll definitely stay in contact and be a resource for the next people that take it because we did kind of have to come up with a on our own. So we ran down our methodologies as best we can. But if they ever need, like questions on why we did something versus something else, we're more than happy to stay on as a resource for the next students who can carry this kind of take the flag from us and carried on?
David S 31:03
Yeah, it's turned out pretty well, because it's a natural breaking point for publications, at least. So we're going to be able to kind of save our progress, right and publish what we've done so far. And then Caitlin, I will be I think, both writing during the summer and working remotely for this professor, even if we're not in the lab, but I have I have no doubt she She's so funny. She said, I'm worried that I'm going to be able to find students that are as as involved as you to be able to take on this project. And I said Amita, or Dr. Candle, this is this Utah State. Research. But yeah, so we're hoping we've got some really cool grad students, too, that are going to be good mentors for whoever takes it up. But it's definitely not done yet. Like we I think I have my my proposed studies list is is long, well, like way longer than than the list of what we've done so far, right. So
it's almost overwhelming the amount of different directions we could take this research and trying to figure out where to send it next.
David S 31:58
We have the antiviral colleagues at the university with anti cancer colleagues who would love to test our extract, and so lots of fun places to take it. And I hope that we get to get to stay close to it as it as it continues.
Venkat Raman 32:17
Now, you know, Kayla, when we talked earlier, you you had mentioned about a lot of work, that you're doing science intersecting social science, I think is what you said. Talk a little bit about that. Tell us what, what you meant by that, or what you mean by that.
Yeah, so um, again, like I said, in high school, I was kind of interested in everything. I've had a lot of varied interests, but I always knew like in high school, I loved love my literature classes, my English classes. They were hard for me because it was such a different way of thinking. And it was as comfortable. So I definitely always enjoyed, like math classes where it's right or it's wrong, it's very black and white. If it's right, it's right. And you can be confident in that. And science kind of isn't quite as clean as that. But it's kind of one of those lines where it's a very black and white way of thinking. And I had always been pretty comfortable with that. And then I joined anticipatory intelligence program. And it's largely actually, as biologists as in the minority, it's a lot of political science students, a lot of people from many different disciplines. But a lot of it was humanities based. And I realized I was not comfortable with how that is. And we were working with a lot of national security things, lots of real world, real world, real world problems. And I was, I was out of my depth, I was so uncomfortable. And I realized that in the real world, nothing is black and white, everything's a great idea. And I realized that I really need to catch up on that and be comfortable with the uncomfortable way of thinking for me. So I purposely added on it, man abuse minor. Again, get myself out of comfort zone and to get myself used to that way of thinking because I knew it was a weak spot for me. And I didn't want that to be weakness I had.
Venkat Raman 34:06
A question I want to ask one of the few actually is, how has all this research impacted you and impacting you, as you went through your undergraduate program, the courses you picked, and the majors and minors you're going to graduate with? You know, maybe, David, you want to go first? And then
yeah, well, you know, the first thing that comes to mind, I very rarely will hit a point in a class where I say this isn't useful anymore. This that used to happen to me all the time, right? Where I said, Oh, this doesn't really apply to me. After having some hands on experience, and in both humanities and in science. I don't say that anymore. You know, so we'll learn about some some biochemistry principle or, or some inner cultural principle and I say no, I can say exactly how This applies, right, because I've been able to practice it in a in a research setting. So that's been really useful. I also, one thing that I have, like a huge, this is a huge part of my, of my personal beliefs is that that, you know, these these complex issues that we really see happening now, right, so things like climate change things like social injustice, and, you know, so many, so many big issues that are frankly overwhelming and can be really, really frustrating to work with. I am a big believer that they can't be solved by anything less than interdisciplinary collaboration. So when we're looking at climate change, you know, that's going to take not only scientists, it's going to take people who know how to speak to the public, and it's going to take people who know how to who are great at statistics, and it's going to take people who love working with computers, and, you know, these really big issues can't be solved by people in one field. You know, and, and that's something that I've really taken from, from my research, and hopefully will take into a career and something that I wish that I wish that more people understood.
Venkat Raman 36:12
Now, what what kind of skills do you think you've developed? David? Doing research?
David S 36:20
Yeah, well, first off writing, lots and lots and lots of writing. And it's been something that I actually really enjoy. So being able to, you know, I love the sort of conversation that we're having today. But being able to do so on paper, and being able to, you know, because you have totally different writing styles, right. So if you're speaking to an academic population, you know, there's certain words that you need to use, so, so that you can be precise in your language. But I think even more difficult than that, sometimes is being able to write in a way that the public will understand. One writing style that I've practiced quite a bit in that I've really enjoyed is a policy recommendation, writing style. So writing to our policymakers and saying, Hey, like, this is what I, you know, this is an issue that I see. And I would really love to see it addressed. And, you know, so any, anytime that you can dip your toes into, into any sort of writing, or creative endeavor, as even as a scientist as a as a stem individual, that's hugely useful, because that's how you're going to be able to communicate the things that you find with people that it'll actually affect, you know.
Venkat Raman 37:33
So Kayla, how is this research impacted you and then we can talk about the skills and things of that kind?
Yeah, I think it's definitely revolutionized my college experience. A big part of that is just contextualize in my classes. David said, when I learned things, my classes, I can see how to give you a refined search. And then even in my higher level classes, we'll be talking about some kind of process. And I would have already worked with that process lab. So I already knew how to apply it, I already knew kind of the context that it worked in, and it made everything, just click so much better, because I already knew that it was going to be applicable in some way to me. It's also just kind of taught me like, there's different career options, there's different ways to even the same material, there's different ways to think about them and different ways to apply that same material. And then you can just pick what one works best for you. And you can find new ways to think about the same things. It also just taught me again, a lot of hard skills that are good for my resume, as I go into my career planning and things like that. It's always, it always looks good to have research on your on your resume, because it shows that you can not only develop these skills, but that you can learn these. And I think the learning process of research is the most valuable part of it.
Venkat Raman 38:57
Now, moving forward, I mean, how do you go from here? How do you take all this? And where do you guys headed?
So I think, I mean, definitely for me, and I think for David as well, he can speak to him on his own. But all these kinds of different experiences that we've gathered have hugely impacted our future trajectory. I definitely my career plans have definitely shifted a lot. I definitely still love my lab work as I talked about, but I realized that I would be sorely missing a humanities perspective if I had to do only lab work. So I've adjusted my career plans so I can have a sweet spot of both. And I know a lot of people ask us like you have so many different interests. How do you How are you going to like combine them all, you're like, you're gonna have to pick and deny disagree. If we can't find a career that incorporates all the things that we liked, then we might as well just make one for ourselves. You know, we can pick one of them incorporate what we like as we go. But I think it's definitely impact did a lot of not only how we think about the work we're doing, but the actual work that we'll be doing?
Venkat Raman 40:06
How about you David?
David S 40:08
Yeah, I have to totally second everything she said, I, you know, we do hear that a lot. We I, it's, it's kind of frustrating sometimes, because people will tell us, you know, well, you're, again, you're gonna have to pick one, you can't just have so many interests and be able to do all those things. And, and I say, I, again, I disagree, you know, I see places where, you know, I wish that this professional had this skill, you know, I'll meet with a doctor or a medical professional say, Wow, I really wish that they had greater communication or writing skills, I really wish that they had a bigger understanding of the inequality that kind of plagues a lot of their patients, you know, and then I'll, I'll meet with a lot of, of more Humanities and Social Science individuals, and I say, Well, I wish they had a better understanding of quantitative data. And that happens a lot, you know. And what's nice is as you as you gain social capital, you know, over your career, so as you gain, you meet more people, and you gain knowledge and you become more valuable in your field, you'll hit the point where, who's going to tell, you know, if you, if you if you say, Hey, I'd really like to do this as well, you know, and I'd really like to get because because you know, that knowledge and education, it makes you a really valuable resource. And you can help a lot of people with, with a diverse skill set. And I think that's really, really important to remember.
Venkat Raman 41:39
I'm going to have each of you reflect a little bit and sort of talk about what you tell a freshman about research, or about doing research. You know, David, do you want to go first and then Kayla?
Yeah. So the first of the first thing that comes to mind, and somebody that I really wish that I had learned earlier, is I think most colleges do this, the sort of breath, or general education requirements that come with a degree, right? So we call them breadth classes here in depth classes, where if you're going to be a biology student, you have to take an English class, you have to take communication classes, you have to take art classes. value those, for sure value those I meet so many students here at the university who dragged their feet, when they have to say, that isn't their field, they say, Oh, well, I already know that I hate English, I already know that I hate history. But if I had done that I would not be not only would I not be in the field that I'm in, I would not be the person that I am. Alright, the goal of these classes is to is to not only make you a well rounded individual, but to introduce you to things that that you don't know if you're going to like, again, I really need to, I feel the need to go back and apologize to my communication. Because I didn't give it the chance that it deserved. And and I think that any new student or senior honestly, who who drags their feet about having to take a step outside of their of what they know is their path and their field is going to be sorely remiss, because they really, you know, you don't know what you're missing out on. And knowledge is valuable knowledge is knowledge, no matter what field you're in. And it can really make you I see it as you know, the more people that you can, can touch and help in a career and the more you know, whether that's through research, or whether that's through more person to person contacting, you know, that's what each of these classes are for, right is to is to help you build your social and academic capital. And that's something you can't do if you're if you're dragging your feet into every single class you take.
Venkat Raman 43:58
Definitely. Kayla, you want to add anything to that?
Still along those lines applied to research I'd say just jump in. Because I'm saying you don't know if you're gonna like it or not until you do it. I think if you know you love research by doing it, so get involved early on to find out you like it. See time. Now you don't like it and then you just stopped doing it, you know? Um, yeah, I think I, my freshman year, the reason I didn't get involved earlier than I did was because I was kind of waiting for a perfect opportunity to come along like a lab that spoke directly to my interests and things like that. But I learned that you can you make your own opportunities. So I just got involved in a lab and they found what they covered that would also apply to me and made something for me. So I think just don't wait for a perfect opportunity. Just take an opportunity and it's going to be helpful no matter what every appearance you have is going to Have you grow and develop? And so you might as well just take those and you can get
Venkat Raman 45:03
Before we kind of wind down here, what would you tell high schoolers? What skills do you think in high school can be developed or wish you wish you had developed so that you could do research?
For me, it's something that I'm still, I'm still learning, it's still very difficult thing for me to do. But I would say, be good at being bad at things. I'm in high school, I was good at everything I did. Good at everything in the world. Because if I wasn't good at something, I wouldn't do it. And I just was so uncomfortable with like the learning process and knowing that I wasn't as good at something as other people were. But if I was more comfortable being bad at something, then that was, those were lost, because I kind of developed. I had develop until recently, when I had confront that. I think that's big about research, I was really nervous going in because I would walk into the lobby, like, I don't know what any of this equipment is. I don't know what they're talking about. Of course, I don't these people been doing this research in this field for years, and I'm stepping in as brand new person, of course, I'm not gonna be as good as everyone else is. And if I've been more comfortable not being good at it, I would have been able to jump in and get over that so much more quickly and learn that that much faster.
Venkat Raman 46:27
Great Insight. What about you, David?
David S 46:29
I think the one thing that has been really valuable to me that I still need to work on, but that I think is a really valuable tool is the ability to find and keep mentors and mentorships. That's being able to, you know, being comfortable going up to your professor going up to your teacher, going up to a more experienced student and saying, Hey, I like Caleb was saying, I have an issue with this, I'm having a hard time with this, will you teach me and of course, you'll find people that aren't willing to invest in students. They're everywhere, right. But what's nice about being in high school and being in college, is that's what they're here for. So it's normally you know, what to be interested in helping you. And, you know, an honest attempt to learn something is going to be rewarded eventually, ideally, sooner rather than later. But in my experience, the most valuable relationships that I've had, have been with more experienced students, or with professors, or with teachers, who I was just open and honest with, and who were impressed by by that kind of thirst for knowledge, you know, and that, that desire to help out into do something good. And it's something that that high school students can totally do can practice at and can get involved. I think it's a skill that you have to have eventually, because that's a big part of professional life is being able to talk to people in form connections, but you know, practicing that now, and even if that's just asking for help with homework or asking for help, after you've taken a test and haven't done as well as you want it. That is that is not just something that's hard, it's a skill, it's it's definitely a a full skill set that you can improve on that you can Yeah, that you can increase.
Venkat Raman 48:25
Okay, so we're gonna start to sign off here. But before we do that, I wanted to see if you guys wanted to share any interesting memory or anecdote or vignette, about your experience at Utah State? Maybe jointly or independently. However you guys want to do this.
I think for me, probably also for David as well, a huge part has been this anticipatory intelligence program. We've touched on a little bit. Yes. Yeah, it's the first of its kind of nation. And it's been really cool because it's very purposely interdisciplinary. And it kind of has, it was kind of the point for me where I realized I could unite my humanities interest and my stem it since one. So I was doing a lot of work on like, how paleo pathogens melting from the permafrost could impact the world and not just disease ways, but in like socially, how that would impact things. So I think that was really fun getting to rub shoulders with all these different people and think about all the different ways that all these things can be thought about and applied. And it just was a really cool experience to get to know so many people in different fields and be able to bond with them over common interests, even things beforehand. I wouldn't have thought that that was possible.
David S 49:45
Yeah, one thing that's really stuck with me I've had kind of this this not an identity crisis, but I think it comes naturally when you try to get the best of both worlds, right? Like, am I a stem student, they may A humanities student. And I can remember, one time when we were in this laboratory with with Dr. Kaundal. And we were, we were working on some cloning, some bacterial cloning. And it was it was my first time running what we call, it's a gel electrophoresis. Just it's this lab technique, and it was my first time doing it by myself. And I totally, it takes several hours, you know, from when you're preparing your sample, you're basically just separating, separating DNA, right. And I forgotten about this, I was trying to run this sample, and it took me a couple hours, and I totally failed. I totally missed it. I think I had put it on backwards. And so I had rubbed my samples directly off of the plate. And I have not only a lot of my time, but I did some pretty valuable laboratory resources trying to do this. And I was embarrassed, I was really embarrassed and, and I didn't want to do it again. So my professor came into the lab, and I said, Dr. Kaundal, I'm really sorry. And I showed her what I did. And she didn't even give it a second glance, like she, she just looked at me and she said, David, with each step, we will learn, it's totally fine. Just try it again and walked out. And I was totally shook. You know, I was sitting here I'm like, Well, I'm just a humanities student, I can't, I can't learn. And we'll say I am I am perfectly comfortable with gel electrophoresis. Now I can run it in my sleep. And I'm a humanities student. And I'm really proud of that. And that's something I credit totally to my professor, and her willingness to take my mistakes in stride, and to have a good sense of humor. And I think not only is that useful as a student, but I think it's something we really need to learn, right. Because no matter where you're at, you're gonna have people that come to you for help guy who are less experienced than you. And if you can be that hand and be that kind of that guiding force. It really sticks with your with your pupils, I can I can promise that.
Venkat Raman 52:09
That's a great, great stories. So Kayla, and David, thank you so much for taking the time and sharing all these experiences. You guys have done wonderful work, congratulations on all that you've done. And I'm sure there'll be a lot more. And so I wish you all the best as you get into the next phase of your careers. For right now. Take care. Be safe. Thank you.
Thank you so much.
Hope you enjoyed our podcast with Kayla and David Suisse about Utah State University and their UG Research.
Kayla and David explored a variety of science and humanities courses as part of their undergraduate program, For almost 3 years, they engaged in research on the medicinal benefits of sagebrush that grows in the wild around their campus.
As part of that research, they created protocols to extract the essence from the plant,
test with different types of bacteria and demonstrated their growth or lack of growth when it touched the extract.
They also got the opportunity to present their research to state and national senators.
I hope Kayla and David’s experience motivates you to research Utah State University for your undergraduate and research.
For your questions or comments on this podcast, please email podcast at almamatters.io [firstname.lastname@example.org].
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