Biology Students Take Part in Summer Research

This summer, two MACU biology students were chosen to participate in research experiences at large universities. Senior Jillian Cox was selected for the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) at the University of Oklahoma, while junior Brookelyn Gilmore took part in a remote research experience through Ceballos Research Lab at the University of Arkansas.

“It was a one-of-a-kind experience,” said Cox, who interned at OU’s Biomedical Research Center. During her two-month internship, she worked with different graduate students who taught her about proteins and their effects on the homeopathic system, blotting, cell counting, pipetting techniques, flow cytometry and more.

She said the hands-on research, combined with her education at MACU, has helped her prepare to pursue her doctorate in neuroscience after she graduates next spring.
Cox, who initially came to MACU as a concurrent high school student and fell in love with the atmosphere, said that the university has positioned her for success even prior to undergoing her summer research experience.

“I feel like because of our small classes and the relationships we get to have with our professors, we get to have a better experience and a better education because you just don’t get that anywhere else,” she said.

She said she has had the unique position of being one of MACU’s first biology students to be a part of the program for all four years. In that time, she has seen the program grow in size and in the amount of labs and courses that are offered. This year she is serving as a teaching assistant under Dr. Kihega, Professor and Chair of the MACU School of Science.

“I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” Cox said. “MACU has helped me grow not just academically, but spiritually. It’s so amazing to have professors who are willing to pray for you and start the class off with prayer. It makes you have confidence in who you are as a Christian.”

After she graduates with her PhD, Cox said she hopes to remain in the medical field, fulfilling what she wholly believes is God’s purpose for her life. When she was just seven years old, her father had a heart attack and had to have triple bypass open heart surgery. Although Cox was too young then to fully grasp what was going on around her, she realized one thing was for certain: she wanted to take care of people.

Similarly, Gilmore also feels that she has been called to the medical field after witnessing her family members require physical therapy. She had the privilege of working under Dr. Ruben Ceballos with the University of Arkansas and took part in his remote research experience for undergraduates in Minnesota this summer.

“It was a privilege,” Gilmore said. “I learned a lot about microbiology and got to do a lot of work in the lab, which is something I haven’t been able to do much since COVID-19 kept us home so much last year.” During her internship, Gilmore had the opportunity to characterize and identify bacteria, specifically cyanobacteria, commonly known as blue-green algae and the first organism on earth. She and her peers took samples from three lakes in Minnesota and studied them over the course of the summer.

“I am really grateful for the opportunity I had to work with Dr. Ceballos,” she said. She learned of the internship through Kihega, who Gilmore said has been an incredible professor and mentor during her time in MACU’s biology program. “I love that I can have a personal relationship not just with my classmates but with my professors,” she said. “It’s easy to go to anyone in the School of Science to get one-on-one help. It’s made such a difference for me.”

Gilmore, who also plays softball for the Evangels, said she is grateful that the sport brought her to MACU. She said that in addition to strengthening her game and preparing for medical school, she has felt her lifelong faith be solidified through chapel services, Bible studies, devotionals before practice and prayer before every game.

“MACU has been so good for me,” she said. “The summer was amazing, but I am so excited to come back for the fall semester and see what God has in store for me.”