The editors and writers of UND Discovery took particular pleasure — more than usual, I might say — assembling the stories and photos for this issue. The focus on students, many of them undergraduates, and the exceptional research they’re doing had an energizing effect on us as we prepared to tell their stories. Two undergrad women really stand out in my mind as I pen this letter. The first, Korey Southerland, graces our cover. A one-time high school dropout, Korey has distinguished herself by combining interests in the disparate fields of atmospheric sciences and political science. She is successfully melding science and policymaking into one study program. Learn more about Korey and her ambitions on Page 4.
Then there’s Jessica Greer, 24, from Grand Forks. Coincidentally, she too dropped out of high school. She eventually got her GED and continued on to college. But that’s not what makes Jessica so noteworthy. As this issue was about to go to press, we learned that Jessica was one of only 275 across the country — and the only one from North Dakota — to be awarded a prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship for 2011-2012. But even more than that, Jessica is emblematic of the undergraduate researcher at UND. For more than a year, Jessica, a junior majoring in biology, has been working in Steven Ralph’s lab as an undergraduate research assistant. And, no, she’s not just sweeping floors or washing beakers. She’s using “forward genetics” to search for insect-resistant genes in poplar trees. This kind of real-world experience lays the foundation for when she pursues a career in agricultural biotechnology and studies alternatives for pesticides by modifying plants’ own natural defenses, among other agricultural innovations she’s got in mind.
Jessica and Korey are what this issue is all about: UND student researchers overcoming barriers, seizing opportunities and excelling! — David Dodds, Editor, UND Discovery