MCB Graduate Jordan Osness (BS, 2021) Receives University Fellows Award and Continues Her Studies in MCB!

Aug. 17, 2021

Many of our MCB students graduating with a B.S. degree go on to graduate school, some opt for further education that leads to health-related professions (for example MD, DDS, PA, PharmD) and some choose to earn an MS or PhD. Our B.S. graduates are currently attending schools around the country, including University of Washington, Yale, MIT, Scripps Institute of Oceanography and Vanderbilt. Many students found a home at the University of Arizona and continue their education right here. Students who stay at UArizona attend medical and pharmacy school, or pursue their PhDs focusing on a variety of specialties, including Public Health, Medical Pharmacology, Genetics and Genetic Counseling and Cancer Biology, and of course, Molecular and Cellular Biology. Jordan Osness was in our 2021 graduating class, earning her degree in MCB and she is staying right here at UArizona and in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology!Jordan Osness MB PhD Student

I wanted to know how Osness came to find her college home at the University of Arizona and she told me it was the campus tour her senior year of high school that really sold her! “It felt like an actual college campus, and I fell in love with the people I met. There is just something special about wildcat pride!”

Osness has always loved learning and is curious about things. "Science was a way to explain my unanswered questions about the world. The way we work as humans and the way the world works is fascinating." After taking both physiology and biology classes in high school, she knew she wanted to pursue a degree in science when she got to college. Once she arrived on campus, she declared Physiology as her major. After she took MCB 181, she was asked to preceptor MCB 181L and then she was hired as a TA. "I liked it so much I ended up teaching the lab for five semesters. I didn't even know you could do that! I didn't know they let undergrads teach!" Her TA experience motivated her to add MCB as a major, and she graduated with a double major in Physiology and Medical Sciences and Molecular and Cellular Biology.

Osness didn't plan on joining a lab initially but knew research was important in the College of Science. She joined Dr. Molly Bolger’s lab when she heard about the Authentic Inquiry through Modeling in Biology (AIM-Bio) curriculum as an alternative to the traditional MCB 181 lab. In this curriculum, students are asked to draw models to explain observed phenomena and design experiments to test their ideas. Her research group focuses on a variety of topics within the AIM-Bio curriculum such as how TAs are supporting their students, student outcomes, and the emergence of authentic scientific practices. “Aside from learning data collection and analysis techniques for science education research, being a part of the Bolger Group has taught me the value of being in a scientific community. There are times when you need to trust your mentors and peers and be pushed outside of your comfort zone to really recognize your true potential. The other researchers in my lab are my support system and have helped me become more comfortable with asking questions, collaborating, articulating, and presenting my ideas, and created an environment for me to feel like a real scientist. Our research has also helped me think about my own teaching and led to growth as an instructor.” Jordan elaborated that utilizing the amazing network of scientists in MCB as a resource is the most valuable skill she learned at UArizona.

As Osness was approaching her senior year with her experiences in teaching, preceptoring and working in Dr. Molly Bolger's lab, she thought a lot about what she wanted to do next. She knew at this point she wanted to be a science educator, in higher education, so she applied to the MCB Graduate program at UArizona and was accepted. She will be pursuing a PhD in MCB with an emphasis in science education with Dr. Molly Bolger as her PI.

Not only was she accepted in the PhD program but Osness was also awarded the University Fellows Award. This prestigious fellowship is offered only to the University of Arizona's highest-ranked incoming graduate students. "I was super shocked, and I still can't believe it's real! The committee was looking for interdisciplinary students and my focus on the intersection between science and education was appealing to the committee."

Dr. Molly Bolder is Osness’ research mentor and is excited that Osness is receiving this award. “The University Fellows Award focuses on students who with a strong academic record who distinguish themselves through interdisciplinary work and community engagement. Jordan exemplifies each of the aspects. Among her many accomplishments as an undergraduate MCB major were teaching the MCB 181 laboratory course, serving as a co-author on two submitted research manuscripts, and welcoming new students to the university as an Arizona Ambassador. Jordan’s interdisciplinary research merges her two passions: education and molecular and cellular biology.  As a PhD student she will contribute to research that seeks to find new ways to advance undergraduate learning in biology.”.

The expectations of the Fellowship include enrollment in a weekly colloquium, mentoring, and outreach and community engagement. Jordan will mentor either a K-12 student, an honors student, a refugee, an immigrant, or an undergraduate recruited through a diversity program in her first year and the new cohort in her second year. She will also participate in community engagement projects with other fellows and their mentors.

I asked Osnass what this meant to her. "I’m so honored to receive this award. It’s incredibly helpful to have the support from the fellowship. I would have had to teach 181L my first year as a PhD student, but now I can focus on my classes and research. I'm excited to meet other students from different programs across the university and to continue to learn about the world from different perspectives.”

Congratulations Jordan, and we are glad you are continuing your studies in MCB at the University of Arizona!