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Taylor Meyer gained hands-on experience in genetics research

Taylor Meyer, shown, will graduate early this spring and was a member of the inaugural class of QuickStart, an early start program for incoming first-year students. Photo courtesy Taylor Meyer.

Taylor Meyer, a native of Marshfield, Wisconsin, will be graduating with a bachelor’s degree in genetics and genomics after just three years at UW–Madison. She was in the inaugural cohort of CALS QuickStart, a program designed to help incoming first-year CALS students get a summer start on coursework, reduce their time to graduation and join a cohort of other students. In this Q&A, Meyer talks about some of her favorite undergrad experiences and shares advice for students interested in doing undergraduate research.

Q: How did you decide on your major? What are your future academic and career plans?
I’ve always enjoyed learning about biology, so when I was introduced to genetics for the first time in high school I was intrigued. Genetics is a relatively young field, yet it has a huge potential for the future. After graduating, I will be continuing my time at UW in the Cytotechnology Program.

Q: Looking back, what was the most valuable college experiences you had?
My most valuable college experience thus far has been my time spent researching in the Chris Hittinger Lab, which uses yeast as a model organism to explore bioenergy, biomedical, and evolutionary research. My specific project focuses on a bioinformatic analysis [of the genetic sequences of] xylose-fermenting yeast species, searching for a correlation between [certain sequences] and growth rates. I am currently working with the Hittinger Lab on a manuscript based off of the research I have been working on. I am really grateful for this experience as an undergraduate. I have gained so much experience that I will be able to take with me in the future.

Q: How did you end up working in the Hittinger Lab?
QuickStart provided me an opportunity to tour a few labs on campus. All of the labs were very interesting, and I learned a lot about the research going on in each lab during the tours.

One module that I completed in the QuickStart class asked me to research some labs on campus, as well as write a mock email to a professor. This proved to be very helpful when it came time for me to start searching for labs I could do research in, and it sped up the process a lot [for finding my position in the Hittinger Lab].

Q: How did you manage to finish your degree in three years? How do you think this early graduation is going to help you?
Fortunately, my high school offered a generous amount of AP (advanced placement) courses which I took advantage of. I was lucky enough to start college with a good number of credits already. From that point, I was able to work out a semester-by-semester plan of each course I wanted to take as well as those required for my major. I always made sure to reach out to my advisor if I ever had any questions about pre-requisites and course information in general.

I feel that graduating early has opened a lot of doors for me. I’d love to continue my education beyond an undergraduate degree and graduating early will help me do so in a timely manner.

Q: Do you have any advice you’d like to share with CALS students?
For other students looking to do research in a lab on campus, my advice is to do your research ahead of time. Many PI’s like to know that you have read about what they do in their lab. Also, do not be afraid to email numerous professors whose research you are interested in. It is great to have a lot of options especially because it is not uncommon for labs to be full at the time you are searching.