University of Minnesota

Genetics, Cell Biology, & Development Student Profile

Name: Kate Lauer

Graduation Year: 2018

Hometown: Eau Claire, WI

How and why did you choose your major?

Throughout middle and high school, I had excellent math and science teachers. Their passion and enthusiasm engaged me and got drew me to the field of science. One course in particular, a biotechnology course I took my junior year of high school, really influenced my major choice. It exposed me to the world of molecular biology and the amazing things scientists can do with DNA, a field previously unbeknownst to me. When it came time to choose a major, I knew I wanted to pursue a field with real-world applications that was both challenging and rewarding. I did some research about majors in the biological sciences such as biology, genetics, and biochemistry and ultimately chose genetics, cell biology, and development (GCD) because it combined my affinity for solving puzzles with an ever-changing field full of discovery.

Please give a description (in your words) of your major including the things you learn, favorite classes, and any challenges you have faced.

The GCD major is unique in that it consists of three main disciplines. Genetics focuses primarily on DNA synthesis and replication, culminating in gene expression and regulation. Taking the genomic material and being able to understand the mechanisms behind how genes are passed from generation to generation or how mutations affect an individual or population are two main focuses. Cell biology is centered around how cells grow, divide, and communicate with their environment. Learning more in-depth about organelles, cell structure, and the cell cycle are large components. Finally, development explores how organisms grow and mature, including cell differentiation and growth on a larger scale such as organs or tissues. Elective courses vary greatly but include topics like immunology, biochemistry, biology of cancer, and stem cells. So far, my favorite courses have been BIOL 4003: Genetics, CHEM 2311: Organic Chemistry Lab, and BIOC 4332: Molecular Mechanisms of Signal Transduction and Gene Expression. The biggest challenge with the GCD major is drawing all the aspects of the degree together to see the bigger picture. At times, it can seem like certain classes are irrelevant or uninteresting, especially if you are interested in a less broad aspect of GCD. However, the courses are very interesting, and the content is widely applicable to many facets of life and related to many career fields. No matter what, as a GCD major, lots of cutting-edge topics are covered, and the opportunities to tailor the degree to your interests are abundant.

What types of experiences outside of the classroom have you had relating to your major? (i.e. clubs, jobs, internships, volunteering, study abroad etc.)

Beginning my freshman year, I became involved in a research lab on campus. I have found working in the lab really bolsters my understanding of the content in my classes, and my lab skills develop and become proficient much faster than some of my peers. I have also worked with the Nature of Life program, during both the academic year and the summer orientation program at Lake Itasca. This year, I am working as a TA for the Foundations of Biology bioinformatics lab section. Overall, getting involved with opportunities related to my major has positively impacted my connections, confidence, and understanding!

In your opinion, what is one thing, or one piece of advice that other students pursuing your major should know?

One piece of advice for students pursuing a GCD degree is to take advantage of the freedom of the major. Similar to biology, GCD has a few core classes but primarily consists of electives. The vast array of courses that earn credit towards the major allows room for exploration and discovery. GCD enables learning about lots of different fields of science and is a great way to broaden your scientific knowledge. That being said, the elective freedom also supports finding a specific subject and pursuing it more deeply. The structure of the GCD major can be uniquely shaped for each individual student and allows everyone to get the most out of courses that truly engage and interest them!

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