School's Out for Summer, but We're Still Here


I'm Anneke, the new addition to the Dordt Life blog! As far as I know, the other Dordt Life bloggers aren’t actually aware that I’m part of the team now. So hey guys—hope you don’t mind.

My fellow bloggers (and maybe you as well) are probably wondering why I’m writing for this blog now. Well, I am a Dordt student, I am a writer, and I am staying on campus for the summer. So they were like, “Hey, you should write for The Dordt Life this summer.” And I was like, “Aight. Cool.” So here I am. I get to tell you guys about all the cool stuff that’s happening here while everyone has gone home for the summer months! My next few posts are going to be kinda journalistic, so bear with me.

It’s a common misconception that campus is pretty mundane during the summer. On the contrary—there’s actually quite a bit happening on campus. You wouldn’t think it, but the students who stay over the summer are busy doing all kinds of stuff for the college—we’ve got maintenance people killing the game, student researchers doing all kinds of stuff, worship teams travelling around, etc. etc. There’s a lot of cool people doing cool things, and that’s what I’m here for: to tell you all about what they do.

Today, I'm here to talk about two student researchers working for the biology department this summer: Caty Weise and Brendon Watchorn. They're both Pre-Medical students, so they're going to be doctors someday. They're smart. They know what they're doing.

Basically, these student researchers have two main projects to focus on this summer, the first one being to work with a probiotic company to develop a way to run quality control checks on their probiotic products. (For those of you who don’t know what probiotics are, they’re helpful bacteria in your body that help with your digestive system.) So they’re doing real work for a real company, which is pretty neat. They also got to use this ~brand new~ piece of equipment Dordt got, called a qPCR (aka quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction), that lets them replicate certain segments of DNA. Also cool. (Biology majors, are you getting excited yet?)

Caty and Brendon working with DNA samples and the qPCR machine. (Picture creds to the amazing Adri Van Groningen)

Caty and Brendon working with DNA samples and the qPCR machine. (Picture creds to the amazing Adri Van Groningen)

Their second project revolves around a crop called intermediate wheatgrass. What is intermediate wheatgrass, one may question? Caty kindly explained to me, a non-Biology major that hadn’t heard the term “intermediate wheatgrass” until now, that it’s a crop similar to wheat (so we can eat it? Nice), but it’s a perennial, which means it comes back every year instead of growing and then dying. Apparently, people are like, “This would be a great alternative to wheat!” So Caty and Brendon get to investigate the plant’s perennial genes to see how well it could do as a large-scale crop. Real Dordt students making a difference, y’all.

But these projects are not the only thing these two do all week. Every Friday is Prairie Day, which is the day Caty and Brendon get to take care of Dordt’s famed prairie. They get rid of invasive plants and work on anything that needs attention out there. It’s a lot of work, but someone’s gotta do it. How else would Dordt’s prairie look so on point when everyone comes back for the school year?

Fun fact: the Iowa tallgrass prairie is actually one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world, and Dordt happens to have one right on campus. No big deal.

Now that you have the rundown of what Caty and Brendon do, you might be asking yourself, “Why would two college students who want to be doctors decide to do stuff with plants? Probiotics make sense, but plants?”

I’m glad you asked.

For those of you considering a career in the medical field, having a diverse research experience is a good thing, and these two understand that quite well. Caty, being the scholar she is, was excited for all the things she would learn through the experience: “My hope is that the practical skills I learn this summer will help me be a better scientist and, ultimately, a better doctor down the road,” she said.

Brendon was thinking ahead when he took the research position. He knew this would help with getting accepted into medical school— they look for more than just classroom performance. “This kind of stuff shows that you've done research and been involved with science outside of just the classroom,” he said. “Doing research at Dordt will make me a more competitive applicant for next year when I try and gain acceptance to research programs at other, larger universities.” 

The takeaway: Plants can make a difference in your path to medical school, guys. Also, get involved in research! It will help expand on your field of study and allow you to apply the skills you’ve learned in classes.


Stay tuned for more posts on what's happening at Dordt over the summer!