Student Experiences
Leah Miiller -- current DWU student 
Major: Biochemistry
Hometown: Corsica, S.D.

Leah Miiller, a junior biochemistry major and psychology minor at DWU, was one of 73 undergraduate students selected to present research at Posters on the Hill in Washington, D.C., in April. She was chosen out of 850 applicants nationwide and was the only South Dakotan chosen and the first since 2009.

She conducted her research, "Effects of Adolescent Bullying on Adult Cognitive Function," during a 10-week South Dakota Biomedical Research Infrastructure Network internship at the University of South Dakota, Vermillion.

"Adolescent bullying is a severe stressor experienced by many teenagers worldwide and is associated with greater incidence of psychiatric disorders that can persist into adulthood. Such disorders are characterized by a deficit in executive functioning; the cognitive process that allows complex decision making," states Miiller?s abstract on her research.

Miiller, and the team she worked with, used rats to study the effects of bullying.

?A group of younger rats was paired with aggressive adult male rats to study the psychiatric disorders that could result from bullying and persist into adulthood. After a series of experiments, it was found that bullying of the adult males was linked to decreased cognitive functioning in the prefrontal cortex of the brain of the adolescent rats, or the part of the brain that handles personality, decision making and social behavior,? stated a Mitchell Daily Republic article about Miiller.

While in D.C., she and DWU's Paula Mazzer, assistant professor of biochemistry, visited the National Aquarium and the Department of Commerce, and Miiller also spoke with representatives from both Sen. Tim Johnson?s and Rep. Kristi Noem's offices about the importance of undergraduate research.

"This conference not only showed me the importance of undergraduate research and scientific research in general, but also the importance of talking to congressmen about funding and other issues in the scientific community," Miiller said. "This event has made me think even harder about pursuing a career in research and has made me realize all of the different fields of research there are."

Renee Butler – 2009 DWU graduate
Internship: Avera Queen of Peace Hospital, Mitchell, and PHS Indian Hospital, Rosebud
Major: Biochemistry
Hometown: Elko, Nevada

Putting your chosen career into perspective occasionally requires a little more altitude.

Renee Butler, of Elko, Nev., took part in an internship in 2008 that not only provided an array of experience, but also allowed her to take part in outreach programs on the Rosebud Indian Reservation.

“During a typical day at Avera Queen of Peace, I sat together with the radiologist while he interpreted plain films, CT scans, mammograms, MRIs and ultrasounds. I was also able to observe him while he conducted minor surgical procedures,” she said.

The doctor she interned for also allowed her to sit in on pre- and post-operative meetings with patients.

“On outreach days, the doctor’s assistant and I would fly with him in his jet to the reservation,” Butler explained.

They would put in about a 10-hour day during these visits and she watched him treat numerous patients each trip. The majority of the time was spent on non-invasive procedures done with image guidance, and reading plain film X-rays.

Internships are an opportunity of a lifetime – allowing students to not only experience their field first-hand, but giving them the chance to embark on a little self-discovery.

“Truthfully, there is no better way to tell if you would be compatible with a job unless you observe it closely and visit with a person in that field,” she said. “I learned a lot about myself throughout this entire experience. I gained a lot of confidence while being in the hospital setting, and I learned so much about the field of radiology. I realized that I would love to not only be a diagnostic radiologist, but that interventional radiology would also be an amazing occupation. Everything about this internship confirmed my desire to pursue a career in medicine.”

Mark Mingo, 2011 DWU graduate 
Internship: Dakota Laboratories, Mitchell
Major: Biochemistry
Hometown: Armour, S.D.

This summer, Mark Mingo, of Armour, took the opportunity to work for Dakota Laboratories in Mitchell, working in quality testing. He said his internship was great because it allowed him to accomplish three big goals this summer – acquire work experience, summer money and college credits. Call it multi-tasking.

Dakota Laboratories is a multi-service laboratory with a focus in the areas of environmental microbiology and biotechnology, according to its Web site.

Mingo is a biochemistry major planning to go on to medical school. During the internship, he worked with various microorganisms and media.

“I also used an assortment of lab equipment for testing on products,” he said. “I got to make a few standard operating procedures that are getting reviewed to be used for future references to run tests or equipment.”

One of those operating procedures includes how to “gown-up” for lab work.

Going into the internship, he was nervous, but after that wore off he really started enjoying his work and realized he was better prepared than he thought.

“A lot of the stuff that I actually did in microbiology here (at DWU) applied to my job,” he said, which initially surprised him that classroom work would be so similar to the real thing. “This is for a pharmaceutical quality control lab … I was surprised to see a lot of the different techniques we used were actually used in my internship.”

Taking the opportunity to do an internship before his junior year allowed him to test the waters of his major and also become more familiar with the subject so he could possibly go into a research internship this coming summer.

“I think that if I was going into another internship or research project I’d still be a little nervous but I’d feel more comfortable going in, know a little more of what to expect,” he said.

The experience also helped him realize something about himself – he knows he’s on the right track to med school and that becoming a doctor is the right fit for him.

“I learned that I can do a lot more things and stay organized even with a whirlwind of tasks in front of me. My career goals have not changed. I would still like to go to medical school.”
Dakota Wesleyan University was named to the 2013 President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. This designation is the highest honor a college or university can receive for its commitment to volunteering, service-learning and civic engagement.
Dakota Wesleyan University is proudly affiliated with the Dakotas Conference of the United Methodist Church. Members of any and all faiths are welcome and encouraged to experience an education based on learning, leadership, faith and service.
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