Bostelman stands in front of her research poster during the poster session at the end of the Amgen Scholars Program at Wash­ington Uni­versity. Marina Bostelman | Courtesy

This past summer, senior biology major Marina Bostelman con­ducted neu­rology research about neu­rofi­bro­matosis during a ten-week research program for the Amgen Scholars Program at Wash­ington Uni­versity in St. Louis.  

Bostelman and her lab group’s summer research project focused on a tumor called optic pathway glioma, which develops in children with neu­rofi­bro­matosis. It appears in only 15 – 20 percent of those affected by neu­rofi­bro­matosis and has the potential to lead to visual decline.

“Right now we don’t have a way of pre­dicting which patients will expe­rience visual decline,” Bostelman said. “One thing that has been observed clin­i­cally, is for some reason girls are much more likely if they develop this tumor to expe­rience visual decline.”

Roughly halfway through the Wash­ington Amgen program, all of the stu­dents were taken to a sym­posium at Uni­versity of Cal­i­fornia Los Angeles. Once there, her program met with Amgen scholars from schools across the U.S. and lis­tened to faculty lec­tures about graduate school and careers in research.  

On the second day of the con­ference, the stu­dents traveled to Amgen research facil­ities in Thousand Oaks, Cal­i­fornia, where they had oppor­tu­nities to network with pro­fessors and stu­dents from other uni­ver­sities.  

Bostelman said the lessons that she had learned through Hillsdale’s biology department ben­e­fited her during her time at Wash­ington Uni­versity.

“Besides lab tech­niques, the critical thinking aspect was huge for starting work in the lab,” Bostelman said. “My mentor for the program pretty much gave mini critical thinking tests.”

Bostelman’s house­mates com­mended her for knowledge and skills in the lab.

“Marina was very pas­sionate and knowl­edgeable about her project,” said Adriana Baker, a senior at the Uni­versity of Nevada. “I often asked her to explain to me certain tech­niques I was not familiar with, and she did so gladly.”

“She was the first person from the program that I met,” said Llona Kavege, a senior biology major at Barry Uni­versity. “She is very kind and com­pas­sionate and remarkably intel­ligent.”

Bostelman’s prepa­ration for her summer research began in the spring of her freshman year.

Asso­ciate Pro­fessor of Biology Jeffrey VanZant has been Bostelman’s adviser for two years and has worked with her to prepare for her post-graduate plans.

All the stu­dents that have gone through his lab and have under­taken post-graduate edu­cation later tell him that they have skills that their peers do not, he said.

“They are highly sought after because they are more pre­pared than their peers not just with the skills they have in the lab, but also the rigor of our cur­riculum here at Hillsdale College,” VanZant said.

VanZant com­mented that Hillsdale stu­dents have the oppor­tunity to learn skills such as DNA iso­lation and poly­merase chain reaction (PCR) and sequencing — expensive processes that most other under­grad­uates don’t get to do as often as they can at Hillsdale.

Bostelman said stu­dents inter­ested in research should gain as much on-campus research expe­rience as pos­sible. Thinking ahead and trying to determine what they are inter­ested in studying long-term is also helpful. She said estab­lishing good rela­tion­ships with pro­fessors can help with letters of rec­om­men­dation because they have a good grasp of your strengths and weak­nesses.

While she only had a few weeks of research with other stu­dents, Baker said they saw great potential in her.

“I truly believe she will be a suc­cessful sci­entist, “ Baker said, “She has the passion for dis­covery as well as the patience and per­se­verance that a suc­cessful sci­entist needs.”