Inside Mizzou Extra: Show Me Research & Creative Works

April 16, 2019

We are thrilled to bring you even more stories from our extraordinary community. Introducing a new, bonus storytelling feature of Inside Mizzou called, “Inside Mizzou extra.” Students, faculty, staff and alumni will tell you the stories and relive the experiences that make our university a leader in academics, athletics, service and so much more.

On this edition of Inside Mizzou extra, five undergraduate student scholars working on projects across the arts, humanities and science give us a window into their hands-on pursuits.

More about Inside Mizzou

Listen on Apple Podcasts Get it on Google Play
Listen to Inside Mizzou on RadioPublic Spotify

Student Scholars

Jaylon Ball
senior, biology
O’Fallon, Mo.

Jaylon spent last summer doing research at Duke University, and this past February, he won first place in the biological sciences category at the Emerging Researchers National Conference in Washington, D.C. He intends to work for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) after graduation.

Coulton Becker
senior, architectural studies
Williamsville, Mo.

Coulton’s award-winning art installation, “Fluss Ewig,” was featured by Southern Bank in Poplar Bluff, Mo. Most recently, he received runner-up for the Applied Design Award at the Undergraduate Visual Arts and Design Showcase. He plans to move to Kansas City in May to work at a design firm and continue his professional development.

Maha Hamed
senior, biochemistry
Columbia, Mo.

Maha spent last summer doing research at MU and also won the Outstanding Poster Presentation award at the 2017 Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students. She will be starting the University of Michigan’s doctoral program in molecular biology this fall.

Sarah Pribe
junior, international studies and English with a minor in Russian and linguistics
St. Louis, Mo.

Sarah is a member of the Honors College, and thanks to their ASH and Cherng programs she has been able to take part in undergraduate research. She is planning on attending law school for international law to become a human rights lawyer after she completes her undergraduate degree.

Rachel Thomas
BA ’18, convergence journalism
Kansas City, Mo.

Rachel was part of the winning team for the 2018 Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI) Technology Competition. During her last semester at MU, she worked in New York City as a RJI Innovation Fellow on the product team at Mic, and she is currently a project management consultant for RJI, where she assists with the management of journalism technologies.


[00:00:08] From the classroom to the cornfield, journalism to SEC athletics the University of Missouri works 52 weeks a year, every year. This is Inside Mizzou — real stories, real discoveries and real impact of the Mizzou community.

Maha Hamed: [00:00:26] Hi, my name is Maha Hamed, and I am a senior studying biochemistry. In this edition of Inside Mizzou extra, myself and a group of students are here to discuss the research, scholarship and art we’re doing across campus and around the world. So, I chose biochemistry — I’ve always loved science and I loved biology — but I like this more detailed, zoomed-in look, and biochemistry offered it to me. And everyone says it’s kind of like one of the harder majors, but I like the challenge even though I knew it was hard. But to me I always found it interesting. And kind of going alongside that, the reason why I love science so much is because such an important part of science is discovery and of looking for the unknown and discovering it. And so, since my freshman year, I knew immediately I wanted to get started in a research lab. So, since my freshman year I’ve been in the lab in biochemistry with Dr. Antje Heese. Her lab looks at the role of vesicular trafficking in plant immunity. So, basically what that means is vesicular trafficking is just like the subway system inside of plant cells. So, how things move around, and so we’re looking at why is it so important that stuff get to the right place in the right time in order for plants to protect themselves. Because I think we can all agree that plants are an important part of our lives — for food, clothes — and we lose such a big part of it due to like pathogens or bacteria, so we’re trying to understand how they protect themselves and hope to create a new plant that is engineered in a way that it can survive drought or it can survive a bacteria attack. So, the hopes for this research — so right now we’re looking at Arabidopsis, which is just a small weed plant, it’s our model plant — but our hopes is to translate that information into corn and in tomatoes. That’s such a big part of Missouri — those two crops, especially just America as a whole. And also we have an issue of food insecurity. So, the hopes is even though it just seems like insular in a lab that we’re just like messing around with plants, but really we hope to have this spawn impact that no one’s able to go hungry. Everyone has the right amount of food, everyone has clothes on their backs because we’re able to provide enough crops in order to satisfy that growing need. And that’s kind of the big picture. But for me what I want to take from this research is kind of this ability to adapt and to kind of accept the unknown. And also it made me realize that I loved research and I want to continue it as a career. So, I originally came in as pre-pharmacy thinking that was going to be research, not just like sitting and counting pills. But really I wanted to be the one making the drugs, so I realized during this that I wanted to do research as a career, so I actually sort of instead of going to pharmacy, I’m actually going to graduate school to get my PhD in molecular biology at the University of Michigan. And what my hopes is is to actually go into academia because I learned so much by so many of my mentors here, and research was a great tool for it to teach me and to kind of not only understand the material of biochemistry and plants, but also to understand myself internally. So, I hope long term to become a professor and maybe come back to Mizzou and kind of help that next generation of scientists to use research and to use it not only as a tool to understand the material, but also as a tool to understand themselves.

Jaylon Ball: [00:03:50] Hi, my name is Jaylon Ball, and I am a senior studying biology. And I am doing research in the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology with Dr. Jaume Padilla. Essentially, our lab is looking at the physiological and molecular links between physical inactivity, metabolic disease and vascular complications. So, last summer I had the opportunity — an amazing opportunity — to go to Duke University to do research there full-time for 10 weeks, and really, honestly, I was doing work that I had never done. I didn’t have any experience in metabolism or anything like that, but it was really transformative for me being in the lab for 40 hours a week. I was just really being pushed to the limit, and it was just really great. The people that I was working with, they were doing the things that I would like to see myself doing 10 years from now. So, that was just really an incredible experience for me, and now I’m just really excited about research and really optimistic about the future, and I’m just kind of going with the flow. So, after graduation I’m looking to go to National Institutes of Health (NIH) to continue doing research for another couple of years, and then we’ll see what happens: MD-PhD, MD, PhD. I don’t know. I’m really just here trying to figure it out. It’s not always as glamorous as it appears. When I first got into the lab, I was doing some really tedious analysis for like almost a year, and I had to do that before I could really get to doing the more exciting stuff. So, just be faithful in what you’re given, and hopefully one day you’ll be able to do the work that you really want to do. But it does definitely take time to get adjusted to lab culture, and just get out there and just do it. You know, a lot of people are hesitant. You know, “I don’t know what the lab is studying. I’m intimidated.” All these people are saying things that, you know, “I don’t understand the jargon of the language.” And no one ever does. You know, you just go in there, you roll up your sleeves and you just go to work, and if you’re willing to do that then I think that there really is a space for you as a student.

Sarah Pribe: [00:06:02] Hi, my name is Sarah Pribe, and I’m a junior studying international studies and English. I do linguistic research with Dr. Michael Marlo and Dr. Rebecca Grollemund, and we study the Luyia language cluster of the Bantu language family, which is spoken in Eastern Africa, primarily in Western Kenya and eastern Uganda. And my research specifically focuses on the historical aspect of linguistics, which is basically looking at how language developed. And so, I research to find the proto-language, or the first language, that led to the other languages in the family. So, one of the most I guess powerful experiences and influential experiences I’ve had doing this research was I’ve gotten the opportunity to travel to Africa three times in two years, which has been amazing. The first time I went with Dr. Marlo and three other students, and we went to Kenya for a month, and we had to do field work. I primarily worked on some folktales for the Bukusu language, which is really neat because I got to work one-on-one with a school teacher for hours on end for a few weeks and just really getting to see the culture and language in the history come through in those stories. And then I also got the opportunity to travel to Uganda, conducting my own research project last May and this past January. And for those I went by myself, which was a little stressful but a lot of fun, and it was honestly just so neat to actually be able to basically lead a project on my own and have my own projects that I could work on and kind of like form in how I wanted to do. I came in here as an English major initially and then I added international studies later, but I read an email from the Honors College calling for applications for the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities (ASH) Scholars Program, and one of them was on linguistics. And I had honestly almost never heard of linguistics before I came to college, and I saw this and it was on African languages, which I’ve always kind of had like an international interest, and I was like, “Oh, that sounds fun!” And so, I applied for it. And so, getting into that and not having any linguistic background and not knowing anything about the field was difficult for sure. Because I remember at the first meeting Dr. Marlo talking about the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) and all these things. I was like, “I don’t know what that is.” But, so basically, it just sounded like fun, and I ended up getting super involved with it. Now here I am three years later still doing it. So, what I hope that the ASH team and all of us are able to accomplish with this is: First of all, I guess finish the projects that Dr. Marlo started and continue that research and contributing to that field. But also, speaking from my own personal experience, having this experience in linguistic research — even though it’s not entirely related to my majors, or it doesn’t seem entirely really to my majors but it’s more than you would expect — it has helped me gain an understanding of how to communicate and understand culture. And for me, that’s going to be incredibly beneficial because I want to go to law school for international law, and understanding how to communicate with people and understand the culture, which this fieldwork has allowed me to do, is going to be incredibly beneficial. And so, I think for other students as well, seeing that yeah this might be linguistic research specifically but the impacts from it extend beyond the field itself. They extend into your life and how you communicate and understand other people, which is valuable for any job field that you can go into.

Coulton Becker: [00:09:56] Hi, my name is Coulton Becker, and I’m a senior studying architectural studies. I started out here at Mizzou going into engineering, and I was really struggling with that. And then while I was kind of finding my way around someone told me that I kind of looked like an architect, and that was pretty much it for me. I looked into the program — a very small program — but I took a couple of intro classes and asked them if they could see me becoming an architect, and they said absolutely. And from there it just kind of took off. I really enjoyed what I was able to do there and to have this artistic expression but also the practicality of making something in real life. And that led to a lot of opportunities. So, probably the biggest and most influential one was an art installation that I did in Poplar Bluff, Mo. called, “Fluss Ewig.” It started out as just a Mizzou class competition, and whoever got first and second place would get to build their design. A little background to that: During that project, my dad actually died from cancer, and this was almost an opportunity for me to take this and make it bigger than what it actually was, or to tailor it to how I was kind of feeling. You know, at Mizzou I was able to build two-thirds of it, but I was able to bring it home and finish it. I actually interned at a place in Poplar Bluff — an architectural firm — and they helped me set up a meeting with this bank that I thought it would be perfect along this property. I set up a meeting with them. They said, “Yeah, we’d love to have it!” And they started building it right away. The actual name of “Fluss Ewig” can be translated to “constantly changing,” and that’s kind of how life felt at that moment. Things were going all in different directions, and nothing felt really stable, and if you look up the structure you can see it’s, you know, kind of caddywhompus, or it’s not really symmetrical at all. And it kind of just ebbs and flows, and that’s kind of how I depicted life at that stage. The impact it had on the community — it was great. You know, I reached out to my local community to help fund it, and it was completely funded by donations. Just getting myself out there, saying, “Hey, this is what I’m wanting to do,” and it really helped that my dad was a huge part of the community. And I got tons of support and people that on Facebook were just so loving and caring, and I owe it to them to have made this structure and me this impact on the community.

Rachel Thomas: [00:12:58] Hi, my name is Rachel Thomas, and I am a recent graduate with a major in convergence journalism, and I currently work at the Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI) as a project management consultant. I started in convergence journalism because I was interested in the intersection of traditional reporting and multimedia. And from that I discovered how much I enjoyed the intersection of technology and journalism, and that started with the Reynolds Journalism Institute Student Competition. So, I entered that competition with absolutely no background in technology whatsoever, and I joined a team of computer science, engineering and fellow journalism students.  Throughout that process we learned what it takes to design and develop a technology product that sits at the intersection of technology and journalism. And so, through this year-long competition, we went through several iterations of ideas and ended up coming up with a demo that we produced through the competition. It was called, “VeriPixel.” And the reason why we named it that was because the purpose is to verify images, and we thought that this was really important for journalism because there’s so much user-generated content out there and there aren’t very many definitive ways to verify the authenticity of that content. So, we developed a way — using blockchain technology and hardware — to be able to authenticate images. We ended up winning the competition, and that enabled us to go on a trip to New York City last June, and we got to meet with executives at different media organizations — like the Associated Press, The New York Times — to get feedback on our product. And from this I discovered that I was really interested in what’s known as product management in journalism, so working with those who work on the technology side and those on editorial to create great products for readers and viewers to be able to consume news in a more engaging way. So, I ended up applying for a fellowship at Mic, which is a digitally based news organization in New York City, and worked there last semester and got to work on the product team there. So, that was my first professional product management experience, and through that I discovered that this is the path I really wanted to take. And after graduation I applied for a project management consultant position at the Reynolds Journalism Institute, and that’s where I am now. To any student or potential student who’s interested in doing any sort of research or going into a subject that they don’t necessarily have a background in, I say go for it. Talk to people who are in the field; do those informational interviews to learn more about what their job is like, what the research is about; and take those risks. I had no experience in technology before I entered the competition at RJI, and I had no professional product experience before I worked for Mic, but I applied, and I took the opportunity, and it ended up giving me invaluable experience.

[00:16:21] Our audio engineer is Aaron Hay. Our featured music is “Forest Park Rhapsody,” composed by MU undergraduate and music composition major, Ben Colagiovanni. You can find more information about Ben and his piece on the Inside Mizzou webpage. Make sure to join us next time, and keep an eye out for the chancellor’s newsletter to stay on top of what’s happening at Mizzou. Thanks for joining us on this episode of Inside Mizzou. See you around the Columns!