Summer Research: Trips, Lab Family, and Fun!

Scientific Lab Cousins
Scientific Lab Cousins

I have neglected to tell you about my fabulous summer right here in Holland, Michigan. As a third year researcher at Hope, this summer was my ultimate time to grow in the lab. I was blessed to receive the Wolterink Prize in Biology in the Spring of 2013 for an upperclassman student that shows promise in research, funding me for a summer research position here at Hope. I had already applied to do research with Dr. Fraley (my lab mentor) for the summer, so it was perfect! He was happy that I was paid for, and I was happy that I for sure got a spot!

I was joined by three other students (all current seniors) in the lab for the summer, and boy did we have a blast. Working on multiple studies, we focused on progressing our projects and delving into the research we are not able to progress much on during the academic year. We worked on GnIH rat studies, cannulizing different locations of the hypothalamus to determine what the affect of GnIH is on feeding behaviors, behavioral duck studies, and a brand new water study on ducks that is technically TOP SECRET.

When thinking about research, it’s really a two way street. What can the student do for the mentor (of course- putting in the work and learning the material) but also what the mentor can do for the student. Teaching a scientist how to do science is NOT EASY. As new members come into our lab, veteran members are constantly learning how to best teach and mentor the new members. I give Dr. Fraley such credit for doing this 365 days a year for consistently new lab members.

Also, mentors give you CONNECTIONS. One of the most powerful things Dr. Fraley has done for us (other than teaching us science, and how to conduct science), is bringing us to national conferences and introducing us to elite members of the scientific community.

We had two AWESOME opportunities this summer to really get to know some of the top members in the poultry field.  The first event was a research conference at Maple Leaf Farms Co. to introduce the executives at MLF to the research and potential research that can be done to improve the poultry industry and standards they use daily.

Alexis Presenting for Maple Leaf FarmsAlexis Presenting for Maple Leaf Farms

Two of our lab members presented posters at MLF, and two of us did 15 minute presentations on our research. I happened to give a 15 minute presentation and BOY was a I NERVOUS. Standing in front of experts in your field and presenting on your findings is quite intimidating. However, the crowd was very receptive, interested, and asked GREAT questions that really helped me improve my research goals and define the next steps in my project.
The second event was a week-long trip to San Diego, California to attend the American Poultry Association Yearly Meeting.
We met an incredible amount of scientists, PhD and Masters Students and it was a great time to learn not only about other research but about possible careers in the sciences. You can read about graduate schools and opportunities there, but hearing it first-hand from students attending these schools is really a great resource.
2 generations of Poultry Scientists
2 generations of Poultry Scientists

At both conferences, we got to meet up with our “Lab Uncle and cousins,” Dr. Fraley’s colleague Dr. Michael Lilburn and his students. It was fun to pretend they were our “Lab Family.”

Grandma and the Fraley Lab
The Fraley Lab with Grandma!

We also met Dr. Fraley’s lab mentor and his wife! We had been anticipating meeting our “grandma and grandpa” for weeks before our conferences. When our “lab grandma” approached, she really surprised us by screaming, “ITS ME!!! GRANDMA!!!!” We definitely got a kick out of that.

Old Town San Diego

Of course our days weren’t only spent inside learning science and talking to colleagues. We got to do some site-seeing, mostly in Old Town San Diego. It was fantastic! With little shops, restaurants and performers, it was a great way to experience San Diego for the first time.

Old Town San Diego
Sightseeing in San Diego Old Town
Dr. Mamduh Sifri who joined us both in Indiana and San Diego
Dr. Mamduh Sifri who joined us both in Indiana and San Diego

While at the national conference, Chelsea Campbell and I presented yet again. This time, we did a 10 minute presentation with 5 minutes for questions from the audience. At the end of the conference, we got awards for our quality presentations. We were even featured on KnowHope later that week!

Fabulous Four In San Diego
Fabulous Four In San Diego

Though the summer was fun, of course, time goes on. Soon, I’ll fill you in on the Van Andel Institute conference we attended with new members of our lab. I am really proud of our new members who are really acclimating well and making great advances on our projects.

The Fraley Lab at VAI for WMRUGS 2013
The Fraley Lab at VAI for WMRUGS 2013

If you have any questions about summer research, or research at Hope, feel free to email me at or tweet me @hopeamanda15.

Fall Break

I’m so glad to be on Fall Break. School has been so hectic, and being away from school is just what I needed. When I came home last Friday for break, I went to my mom’s new café she opened up (her actual opening day was on Saturday). I was so shocked to see how quaint it was. It’s in a little town outside of Traverse City, called Kingsley. The community is tight-knit and welcoming. I’m very glad this is where she put it.

ANYWAY, I started working for her that Friday getting things prepared and ready for the opening day. And guess what, MY BESTIE AMANDA also worked! Vee (my mama) loves her. She’s the Caucasian daughter she’s never had. Anyways, we worked on publicity and logistical needs for her café. We even made this menu. It took us a while!

This menu literally took us forever.
This menu literally took us forever.

As you can see, she was working hard.

Working hard, or hardly working?
Working hard, or hardly working?

On Saturday, Amanda and I reported for duty at 7:00 AM. That’s early, we know, but we were getting paid! It was so cool to see the community and my mom’s friends and family come together to support her. She was SO excited. She’s always wanted a little café, and she worked hard to get it! Here are some pictures from opening day!

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Practically, I’ve been working for my mom and studying during fall break. I have to study for my first standardized nursing test! It just shows how ready I would be regarding Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing. I’m nervous for this exam, but I’m studying hard! I’ll keep you all posted about the rest of my fall break and what’s coming up this week.


Amanda’s Twitter: HERE | My Twitter: HERE | My mom’s Facebook page for her café: HERE. Make sure you like her page too! 🙂

Bring on the Future….

One thing I absolutely LOVE about Hope College: Professors CARE.

Going to smaller school really allows you to get to know your professors and your fellow classmates a lot better. There are always new people to meet, but I can always return to my same group of people. Also, because we are liberal arts, you are bound to meet a non-major in your classes. For example, I’m a biochemistry major, but I am taking a cognitive psychology class this semester for my psychology minor. I am in a class with almost all psychology majors that I have never interacted with academically (I have seen a few around socially). This has really allowed me to branch out.

BUT, not the point of this post. Back to professors caring: a lot of the time, students finish their undergrad degree and have no idea what is next. Talking to a few of my high school colleagues who have finished their undergraduate degrees, they don’t always have a next step. However, ALL of the professors that I have had throughout my three years at Hope have prepared me in some way or another for life after Hope College. Here are some examples:

Example 1) Dr. Aaron Putzke (a Bio Professor) offered a trip to Van Andel Institute a few weeks ago. I jumped on the experience because I have presented at VAI a couple of times and really wanted to learn more about their doctoral (PhD) program. My plans currently are to go for a MD-PHD, but plans can always change, right? (BTW – VAI does have a joint MD-PHD program with MSU). So, I was able to go with 8 other Hope students, accompanied by Dr. Putzke, to explore VAI on a Tuesday morning.

Now, let me tell you, field trips in college are never convenient. Whether you do a job shadow, you participate in an athletic event, or you look at grad schools, you will most likely always miss a class or two. I was going to miss my cognitive psychology class, which only meets twice a week. Example 2) I emailed my professor, Dr. Lorna Hernandez-Jarvis (also the chair of General Education at Hope), and apologized that I would have to miss her class to visit VAI. She replied these exact words: “Great opportunity! Enjoy it! Dr LHJ”

WOW. I shouldn’t have been surprised, because professors are always over-the-top compassionate here, but I was still shocked.

When I returned to her class on Thursday of that week she pulled me aside after class and asked how my visit had gone. After I had told her that although it was a nice facility, I couldn’t see myself in their joint program with MSU, she instigated further conversation. Example 3) She asked where I’d like to go to school, what was I looking for in a school. She proceeded to offer a few suggestions of schools I should check out for my MD-PHD. This conversation and interest in my future would NOT have happened had I gone to a big public school, and probably wouldn’t have happened at even some smaller schools.

Example 4) That Thursday afternoon I had a midterm art review in my Basic Drawing class (another liberal arts ability — to take art classes as a science major). I sat down one-on-one with Bruce McCombs, my professor, and we went through my pieces. Before he commented on my work he asked, “What are you planning to do after Hope?” After telling him my plans, he told me of a few MD friends he had had in school and where they went. Though he tried to persuade me to be a medical illustrator (and tried to steal my artwork), he still offered great advice at finding the next-step school that would be right for me. THIS WAS MY ART TEACHER. – mind boggled to say the least.

Example 5) My research professor, Dr. Fraley, is always poking at his lab students about what they will do after Hope. He was actually the one to SUGGEST an MD-PHD, before I had even told him my ideas. He offered to connect me with a few students who had been in his lab and had successfully completed an MD-PHD program. So, soon I will be in contact with them to get the inside scoop!

I have a hundred trillion other examples of this, but this was just the past two weeks of professor-future interaction. Looking back at deciding where I would go to undergrad: it was a HUGE decision. I didn’t have helpful high school teachers who took the time to introduce me to possible schools that would fit me and meet my individual needs. But here at Hope, I DO. I am blessed to have chosen such a great institution with faculty that always have my needs and future as their top priorities. Now to find a medical school-graduate school that can do that as well……….

Walking up the steps to VAI with Devos looking on.
Walking up the steps to VAI with Devos looking on.

Questions about your Hope Journey? Science-major probs? What a day at Hope looks like?
Check me out on the Twitter, hopeamanda15, or email me at



We’re in Wisconsin

Last weekend, my roommate REALLY wanted to go home. It was her small town’s harvest festival in the middle of Wisconsin. She was nice enough to invite student blogger, Marv, and I along. As lovers of all things fried and cheesy, we had to accept the invitation.

As we move into the second month of our semester, things are getting hectic. College schedules can get repetitive, even though activities are constantly changing. Having done research at Hope all summer (more on this soon), I was getting the itch to get out of Holland. A trip to Wisconsin was the PERFECT CURE.


We perused Hannah’s cute little town and got to see a parade and many interesting specimen of Wisconsin natives (no offense wisco’s). Oh, right. And I also wore a tiara around all day. Hannah was prom queen her senior year of high school, and after finding her crown at her house, I decided to wear it around the Harvest Festival to, naturally, pretend I was queen of Harvest Fest.


I had some really interesting reactions to my tiara. I was called princess multiple times (mostly by fried-cheese-selling vendors) and people complimented me often on my headwear. I think my friends liked it (secretly of course) because they felt like they were in the presence of royalty. Which, they were. 😉


Once the parade started, things REALLY started to get real. I’ve only been to Wisconsin once or twice before, and all when I was younger. It really is a different atmosphere than even the upper back woods of Michigan. Marvin and Hannah ran into the badger-thing, Bucky. I thought he was quite strange, but I was not aware he even existed… so… there’s that.


Yeah and the BEST PART OF THE ENTIRE THING??????? Cows handed out string cheese. Ya. For real. There were COWS running up and down the street. Handing out STRING CHEESE. That’s when I knew we weren’t in Kansas anymore…er…Michigan.


Gru and the kids – along with minions – made an appearance. This was quite a shock because I know they are busy with their recent filming and producing of Despicable Me 2.

Also the people of Wisconsin were very excellent hosts. This girl (below) heard me cry when her and her friends got all the swedish fish. She offered me one of her packs. –Sweet, right?

IMG_0092 IMG_0095 IMG_0100 IMG_0108

Unfortunately, I developed the dreaded fall cold while I was in Wisconsin –could have been all the fried cheese Marvin and I ate. But hey. We make sacrifices in life… even for string cheese.

HEY — you’d better check out Marv’s Blog while you’re at it. And follow us on Twitter! Click Here for Marv’s, and Here for mine!

Learning about being a Sushi.

This year I have a fabulous opportunity to be a teacher’s assistant for one of my good friends, Professor Linda Strouf. Her First-Year Seminar class is entitled: “Who am I? and Who are the others?”. The focus of the course is for first-year students to think about finding the “other” within themselves and to wrestle with the contradictions of identity.

The first “module” of the course was about Islam. Being a private, Christian college in the northern midwestern United States, the Islamic population of Hope College is fairly small. Though Muslims do attend Hope, their numbers are not great. To learn more about Islam, we read the book The Muslim Next Door, which I highly recommend for anyone beginning to explore Islamic traditions. For most of the students in our class, it was a brand new experience.

We wrapped up the content by taking a visit to the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, MI. Just a short, 3-hour trip for us — we took a Saturday and went!

I, personally, learned a lot about Islam, though I feel I had a decent understanding of their religious traditions to begin with. Our tour guide, Eide Alwain, was ever-gracious and welcomed us and our Christian traditions with open arms. He called himself a “Sushi” – a self proclaimed mix of Sunni and Shiite Islamic traditions, so as to show others that he does not judge based on your sect of religion. He encourages interfaith discipleship and works closely with the churches in his area to learn more about other religious traditions.

Of course, my bestie Marv came along for the ride, as Linda, Marv and I are all BFFs. It was really eye-opening for him as well. Marvin happened to be the only male along for the trip (a coincidence I swear), and part of the Islamic tradition is for the two genders not to touch. Men and women do not shake hands, do not brush up against each other, etc. This was VERY hard for us to get used to inside the mosque, as (being besties) we push, shove, laugh, brush, kick, etc each other ALL THE TIME. I practically had to tie my hands down. PLUS. I really was used to the tradition of shaking hands after a visit. So as Eide wrapped up his talk, I ALMOST extended my hand to shake his. Thankfully, I caught myself in time.

Our discussion of Islam and our trip was very interesting from the perspective of a Hope student. Though we live in a very diverse city (Holland), we too often get stuck in the Hope bubble. Though we have have some diversity here, the majority of students are from the same background. It is comfortable to hang out with people of your same race and religion, simply because they are VERY LIKE you. But guess what. Everyone is like EVERYONE. Look at a prime example in my story: My bestie Marv is a Philipino, and I’m as white as they come! I joined a multicultural sorority where white is the MINORITY, and I absolutely LOVE IT. It doesn’t have to span across races, religions, sexual orientations or genders though. Coming up, I’ll talk about my trip to Wisconsin with my roommate, Hannah. She is Irish (pretty white!) though her childhood experience in Wisconsin was completely different from mine in the upper peninsula of Michigan.

OK OK OK. A long blog story to wrap up an easy point: GET TO KNOW THE PEOPLE AROUND YOU. They may look the same or different from you. They may think the same things, or maybe they have different ideas. Learn about them, absorb their culture and their traditions, and GROW. You will become an exponentially more interesting, well-rounded, and HAPPY person.

I mean, look at all the fun we had in these pictures:

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Junior Year Has Come!

Welcome back to Hope! So glad you are with me again, for the third year in a row. We are certainly in the grind here on campus, getting into our new classes, labs, research, and projects. Everyone is finally settling into their schedules and learning how their time-management is best organized.

It is now my Junior year here as a Biochemistry and Molecular Biology major. Things have changed a lot, and changed very little. Time only brings perspective, and college is certainly a time of exponential growth in personal perspective and efficiency. Petty things that bogged us down freshman year are no longer big deals, and instead we are delving into our individual interests while enjoying our social circles. I stayed on campus all summer (more on this later), but I have still really enjoyed the reunions with friends and the bit of down time we had before classes started. The first weekend we were all back, my lab mate Chelsea invited me out to line dance at The Alaskan Pipeline, a bar and grill that is just a fantastic time. Though I’m not an excellent dancer, the people were very patient, and I think they really enjoyed watching me struggle with my two left feet.

Chels and I!
Chels and I!

My apartment-mates and I are settling into our new habitat outside the dorms. We are in a duplex this year, which is actually a lot different. We have a kitchen, a living room, a basement, and even a BACKYARD. We’ve had quite a few “Family Dinners” where we have a group of people over to eat. Here are a few of the crew in the backyard enjoying the latest popular YouTube sensations:


The most enjoyable part of being out of the dorm (for me at least) is not only being able to cook your own food, but also to “settle.” At the college age, settling becomes a very natural instinct, and especially after jumping around and moving every 6 months or so, it’s nice to have a place to call “home” where you can dump all your things.

Because we have a lot of books, our biggest accomplishments in our apartment include bookshelves. Here’s one I picked up at a local thrift store and painted in an “antique” style. Oh and I got it for $6. 😉


Meanwhile, just as I was starting to get settled in, one of my friends played a practical joke on me and left me a TICKET on my car. I was SO UPSET when I got into my car and I saw it and I COULDNT BELIEVE IT. Then I actually read the ticket, and it said “HELLO GLOWSTICK!” This became my nickname this summer because I honestly don’t tan, and all my labmates claimed that I glowed in the dark at my softball games :(.

A Practical Joke
A Practical Joke…Ugh


Classes are going so well, and everything has been very interesting. It’s like the point in high school when you finally get to take the classes you want to. It’s so awesome!!!! Biochemistry, Physics, Cognitive Psychology and ART. A dream schedule.

Marv with the Cobbler!
Marv with the Cobbler!

Meanwhile, we try to maintain some fun in our schedule. Our weekends are filled with social movie events and domestic extravaganzas like baking. In particular, fellow blogger (AND MY BESTIE) Marvin, and I, have been making cobblers all the time! It never lasts long because 1 – its super tasty, and 2 – its super delicious.


We brought our professor Linda some and she LOVED IT SO MUCH she tweeted about it ;).

OK! More soon lovelies. Remember to follow me on the Twitter!

My life in slow motion.

SO!…. I’ve been so busy the past month, I can’t believe that I’ve been back in Holland a MONTH already. That seems ridiculous. 

Here are the some of the highlights of my past month:

My Mom and Sister came to visit me in Holland!

I can use my meal plan now at the Kletz because I have >70 credits. SCORE!

I have fully utilized the Make-Your-Own-Cookie bar at Cook!

My sister taught me how to organize my t-shirts by color!! [I fully accept that  this makes me a nerd] – but isn’t it pretty?

I went out to Chinese with my roomie and ate DELICIOUS food. Yum.

FINALLY, I was an OA (Orientation Assistant) and I got to welcome all the incoming students (freshman and transfers) to Hope with awesome activities!!

I hope your month was as fabulous as mine! 🙂

Follow me on Twitter: @hopeamanda15



Laughing at the Loft

College is a huge moshpit of choices. Your mom isn’t here anymore to tell you when to eat and your school isn’t telling you what to wear.

Sometimes, these choices make for great life experiences, though they usually come with costs. If I watch Grey’s Anatomy all night (which sometimes seems to happen), I’ve lost valuable studying time for the next morning’s test. When I study all day without breaks, I have no social life and my friends begin to hate me. …Well… not really, but kind of.

Anyways, last weekend, I had a big choice. My best of all friends, Morgan, came to visit from my homeland, Sault Sainte Marie, on Saturday night. It’s a six-hour drive, so she stayed for two nights and three days ! 🙂 We had a lot of fun and went to movies, the mall, and a concert.

I had spent all of Thursday-Saturday night studying for every waking moment, trying to fit in all the work I needed to get done before Morgan arrived.

We went to see Blitzen Trapper, a band Morgan loves, at the Loft in Lansing, MI, about 1.25 hours from Hope’s campus on Sunday night. No big, I just had a huge Bio 280 exam on Monday morning that was supposed to knock my socks off. But, the choice was mine, and I chose to Loft it up with Morgan and Blitzen. We were front row, head banging (uh kind of), and enjoying the tunes! We even saw our highschool classmate, Alex, there!

I got four hours of sleep before the test (better than no sleep, I suppose) AND I even was running through some of the concepts while driving home ;). In the end, the decision didn’t end up being HORRIBLE, but maybe I’ll use better judgement next time.

It’s all about learning, right?

Class of 2015 Pulls ahead….for the second time!

This weekend was the 115th annual Pull.

One of Hope’s most unique traditions (in my opinion), the Pull, is often viewed as a giant game of tug-of-war between the freshman and sophomore classes at Hope.

But really, it’s so much more than that.

  • The Pull brings a sense of “mini-nationalism” about the campus between odd and even graduating classes. It gives us something other than academics or sports to be proud of our peers for. As an underclassman, this also helps assimilate new students into the general population as juniors lead the freshman and seniors lead the sophomores.
  • It brings a little bit of “celebrity” to the participants, as everyone on campus knows if you’re a “puller” or a “moraler.”
  • It creates a huge buzz around campus. Nearly everyone is excited (maybe not always outwardly) at least about who will come out ahead.
  • It’s a huge game of strategy. Though some teams are stronger than others, it’s really the mentality, the leadership, and the game plan that help one team come out ahead.

It’s pretty hard to completely grasp the situation until you are actually in front of the pits, cheering for your friends that are screaming in pain and agony to win this for your class. Ya, okay, that doesn’t make it sound so appealing, but really, you have to check it out.

PLUS. 15 has won two years in a row. Which is ridiculously awesome. So, next year’s freshmen, we’re ready for you. 17 FIRE UP.

GUESS WHAT HOPE HAS…? Ok, you didn’t guess. Photos from Pull all the way back in the early 20th century. Check these bad boys out.

Confused? Read up on Pull.

Check out more Pull photos here, and check out the winners all the way back to the original (or at least what we think is the original) pull.

Obama or Romney?

My heart is conflicted.

Well… not really… but it seems like it an awful lot of the time lately.

Since I left Hope in May, my life has revolved around politics. All summer, I worked at a free/low-income health clinic in Traverse City. With the health reform bill coming quickly, a lot of changes were going to have to be made at the clinic. No longer would any services be able to be “free,” as the organization that was usually paying for treatment, CHAP, could no longer exist without government funding. 

Not only did this spark many policy debates within the clinic, but it pushed me to stay informed. The clinic, the place I had come to love, would have to do a 180-degree change to keep serving the public and provide the resources it does while trying to maintain the staff levels they had managed to keep through the last budget cuts. 

Would Obama-care pass? Could it stay in place if Obama was no longer in office? What would Romney [attempt to] do to change the healthcare reform?

More recently, I’ve been proactive with both political parties. This fall I’m taking a half-semester class called Democratic Elections. We have been studying democratic campaigns and their structure and strategies. I’ve been paging my way through The Audacity to Win by David Plouffe, Obama’s 2008 campaign manager. Through the course, we are required to do 16 hours of political volunteer work with the democratic party. Most of my work has been done at the Ottawa Democratic Headquarters here in Holland.

But when I go back to political roots, I identify most with the Republican party and, in the past, have done most of my political work with them. My high school friend, Marvin, is on the executive committee of Hope Republicans, so I HAD to check it out. 

One of the first events I attended was visiting the Mitt Romney tour bus. He’s got a lot of swag! See my pictures below!

So, who the heck am I going to vote for? I guess I still have a lot of policy reading and deciding to do.

More soon.



Who do you think will win? Tweet me your answer to @hopeamanda15