UAN member Erin McClure receives Fulbright Scholarship to Austria

By Weiyi Zhao, ASBMB

As with most ASBMB Undergraduate Affiliate Network (UAN) members, Erin started getting her hands wet in lab early during her college career.  After her sophomore year at Juniata, Erin worked in a physiology lab at Brigham & Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School in Boston, Mass. and she spent her junior year studying and doing research abroad at the Philipps University in Marburg, Germany.  Her current research project in the lab of Regina Lamendella, assistant professor of biology at Juniata, involves analyzing changes in gut microbial composition and structure in people with inflammatory bowel disease.  Erin will spend the next year focusing this research in the lab or Alexander Loy, a researcher at the University of Vienna.   Here is a little more about Erin McClure in her own words.

When did you first become interest in science?
I have been interested in science for as long as I can remember. I do have fond childhood memories of exploring salt marshes on summer vacations, so the combination of interesting environments with a natural sense of

Erin McClure, shown here at her internship at Harvard University, will study at the University of Vienna in Austria.

Erin McClure, shown here at her internship at Harvard University, will study at the University of Vienna in Austria.

curiosity probably played a role in cultivating my interest in science.

Did you always know that you wanted to do research?  Can you describe your current research?
I decided that I would like to conduct research as a career during a biomedical research internship following my sophomore year of college. I enjoyed investigating complex problems with unknown answers and being part of lab culture. Currently I am working in a microbial ecology lab at Juniata where I do primarily bioinformatics research. My project is in analyzing the changes in the gut microbial community composition and structure in people with inflammatory bowel disease.

What are the key experiences in your undergraduate career that helped you achieve your success?
My experiences this year have been essential in my success. My research advisor, Regina Lamendella, has invested a lot of time in my scientific development and is an excellent mentor. In fact, she’s helped me immensely in finding the Fulbright contact and developing my proposal. Other key experiences include my biomedical research internship in physiology as a first exposure to the exciting yet frustrating world of research and studying abroad in Germany. In Germany I became more self-sufficient, learned to be comfortable with the unknown, and was exposed to bioinformatics.

Who are some of the mentors in your life that have helped you in your scientific/academic endeavors?
Several people have been instrumental in helping me develop my scientific and critical thinking skills.
Gina Lamendella — current research mentor, Laura La Bonte — former research mentor, Judith Benz — academic advisor and German professor, and Ruth Reed — academic advisor in biochemistry and biochemistry professor

What advice do you have for other biochemistry and molecular biology undergraduates who are completing their degrees and trying to figure out what their next steps should be?
My advice would be to apply to as many relevant programs or for fellowships as possible regardless of how successful you’ll think you’ll be. Networking is important too, but I’m still learning how to do that myself!

Do you have any advice for other students who might be interested in obtaining a Fulbright scholarship?
Start the application process early, since it is very involved and you will need to find a lab willing to host you.

What are your hobbies?
I like to run and am currently training for a half-marathon. I also enjoy cooking and trying out new recipes.

What are your future career plans?
I will attend the graduate school in molecular microbiology and immunology at the University of Maryland in Fall 2014. I plan to earn a PhD and conduct independent research as a career, however I am unsure of exactly what form that will take.

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