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Ever since I was little, I have been fascinated with all things science. I remember doing everything from coming up with my own chemistry experiments (and making messes in the kitchen) to creating my own houses specially designed for bugs. It has always been clear that science is the place for me. As I got older, I realized it would be important to get some hands on experience in the field before committing to a career; which, unfortunately, can be hard to do before entering college and declaring a major. This was super stressful to me, because I felt like I would have to go to college without a clear career path in mind. Then, I discovered the Waukee APEX program. Hearing about it was a lightbulb moment for me. A program where I could gain lab experience and meet with people currently in the field? It seemed almost too good to be true. Of course, I signed up as soon as possible. This is what lead me to the Medical and Bioscience Research strand of APEX, the program I am enrolled in today.

Currently, I head to the Waukee Innovation and Learning Center (WILC) every day where I work in a fully-equipped lab. I have had the opportunity to collaborate with local businesses on value-added projects as well as learn about lab technology and equipment. Currently, I am working on two projects, one that I am leading as a project manager.

My first project is a collaboration with Iowa State University involving the time-lapse photography of zebrafish embryos. As project manager, I am responsible for coordinating with ISU graduate students and professors to get zebrafish embryos to work with and set up meeting times. When we receive embryos, we are tasked with devising the best methods to mount them on slides and photograph them under our inverted fluorescence microscope. It has been challenging learning how to work with the zebrafish and the technology that the project requires, but I have learned a ton. In addition, I have learned how to manage a project and communicate with business professionals.

My second project is in association with Kemin Industries on seed germination optimization. My team has been responsible for creating treatments to apply to a certain type of seed with the goal of increasing the number of seeds that germinate. This project is confidential, which has helped me learn about the legal side of the STEM field. Additionally, it has allowed me to network with people who have direct ties to the industry.

My time at APEX has provided me with invaluable experience in the field that I plan to enter in the future. I have gained not only science knowledge, but professional skills and resume boosters that will become very useful. Ultimately, I have been able to confirm that bioscience research is the place for me, which was the initial reason I signed up for the Waukee APEX program.