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Polly Haight '13

Polly Haight ’13 came to DePauw with her eyes set on medical school. “At first I viewed my undergraduate career as a stepping stone onto something more. But through DePauw and the Science Research Fellows program I am convinced that this educational experience is something more in and of itself,” Haight said. 

As a freshman entering DePauw, Haight sought out to pursue a biochemistry
major because she understood how closely it mirrored medical school
prerequisites. “While I knew that I would enjoy biochemistry, I never quite
knew how much,” she said. “My professors really got me interested in the
‘how’ of biological and chemical processes; I began to channel my interest
more toward critical thinking in the context of the body’s reactions,” she
said.
“I found that I was encouraged to apply to the SRF program to explore and
broaden my expectations of science,” Haight said. She entered as a lateral
entry student in the fall of 2010. During her first semester of research Haight
worked with Prof. Hilary Eppley and several other students exploring the
properties of “ionogels” and attempting to create gel-like materials from
ionic liquids. Haight believed that it was so rewarding to work on a brand
new project that is at the forefront of its field.
The research experience helped her not only to become familiar with basic
laboratory procedures, but also conducting a proper scientific experiment.
“From this project I also learned that success does not come easily; we would
often attempt to create gels that never solidified or were too ‘gooey.’ But
that’s where you go back and ask ‘okay, what can we do to fix this?’ And try
again.” 
In the spring semester and summer following her sophomore year, Haight
paired with Matt Kukurugya ’13 and Vincent Guzzetta ’14 to study the 
metabolomic effects of salinity and drought stress on Portulaca oleracea, a
weedy medicinal plant better known as purslane. “It was cool to see our
project in a bigger context – we related the reaction of purslane to the overall
response of plants to climate change.” Haight said that the most challenging
part of her summer was learning to use R, a statistical analysis program with
a steep learning curve. Haight claims, “Our lab had great chemistry, both in
terms of the data and the friendships that were made, which made that
summer a very overall rewarding experience.”

“My on-campus research experiences taught me how to think like a
scientist,” Haight said. Before working with Profs. Eppley and Hanson I had
little idea of how ask questions, develop hypotheses and create protocols
that enable you to explore science and develop answers about the world
around you.”
To further pursue her interest in research, Haight traveled to the University of
Cincinnati College of Medicine during the summer of her junior year where
she had obtained an undergraduate research fellowship. “While researching
at DePauw was an exceptional experience, I was also interested in pursuing
more biomedical opportunities that you can really only obtain on a medical
campus,” Haight says. She worked in the department of environmental
health studying the effects of bisphenol A on centrosomes and the cell cycle
in prostate cancer cells. “The program was challenging in so many ways, but
also so rewarding. At the end of the summer I told my mentor that I couldn’t
comprehend how much I had learned and that my brain felt as though it had
doubled in size.”
Haight believes that it was all through the Science Research Fellows program
that these experiences were possible for her. “I was actually talking with one
of my fellow SRF classmates the other day and we both agreed that applying
to the Science Research Fellows was one of the best decisions we have ever
made. I honestly couldn’t say what I would have otherwise done for the past
two summers, and never would I have been so motivated to apply for and
obtain a prestigious research internship in fields that truly interested me.”
While Haight still plans to attend medical school, she is convinced that she
will pursue biomedical research along her path to becoming a physician. “I
love how intertwined research and medicine are. Some high level of
collaboration has to exist between scientists and doctors in order to make