Undergraduate Research Testimonials

Sarah Colihan sterilely culturing microorganisms.

Sarah Colihan (2010-2011):

“Dr. Malcolm went out of her way to help me have a valuable research experience as an undergraduate. She helped me to develop an independent project of my own, and allowed me the opportunity to follow the project from its beginnings in fieldwork to its end in a poster presentation of our concluded project. She really encouraged me to think critically and pushed me to expand my knowledge on the science surrounding our project and molecular research in general. I enjoyed the two years that I worked with Dr. Malcolm, and now as a medical student I still carry the skills I gained from working with her like critical thinking and organization. Furthermore, the passion Dr. Malcolm showed for her career and lifelong learning is something I will always remember and be inspired by. Many medical students take the summer after their first year to do clinical research, and I am very much looking forward to another research opportunity where I can expand on all that I learned while working with Dr. Malcolm. At a big university like Penn State, I was very lucky to have a mentor like Dr. Malcolm who really made it her personal goal to make sure that I left college with such a unique experience.”

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Heidi conducting stand counts in soybean.

Heidi Musshafen (2012):

“Within the Sustainable Dairy Systems Project, Dr. Malcolm has given me more opportunities than I have received in other labs.  Currently, she is mentoring me in canola pressing research, Through working with Dr. Malcolm I have been able to perfect my research and critical thinking skills.  And her passion for teaching and science rejuvenates me in pursuing my goals.”

[Heidi tested whether initial seed moisture affects how much oil can be pressed from winter and spring canola varieties.]

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Marissa Keys (2012-2013):

Marissa Keys (left) and Heidi collect residue data.

“Dr. Malcolm assisted me in pursuing my interests and goals as an undergraduate research assistant in the Sustainable Dairy Cropping System.  It did not take long for me to realize the passion she has for teaching and research.  I appreciated her ability to balance mentoring with aiding me in becoming an independent thinker and researcher.  Dr. Malcolm is very good at knowing when to help and when to allow students to make conclusions on their own.  After working with her this summer I feel much more confident in my decision-making skills.  Dr. Malcolm went above and beyond to ensure that I had a valuable summer experience and continues to work toward helping me complete my objectives. “

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Roni Pasi (2013-2014):

Roni Pasi counts mycorrhizal colonization at root interestions of different crop species.
Roni Pasi counts mycorrhizal colonization at root interestions of different crop species.

“When I began working for Dr. Malcolm as an undergraduate researcher, my knowledge of the NESARE Sustainable Cropping Systems project at Penn State was only beginning to flourish.  Under the supervision of Dr. Malcolm, I quickly began to understand many aspects of the complex research project and its valuable insight on sustainable agriculture for the future.  As a mentor, Dr. Malcolm has exceeded my expectations through her instruction about the research practices used, while keeping the “big picture” in mind.  I can recall multiple times while working under Dr. Malcolm where I needed advice on the best way to complete a task.  She always provides assistance, but in a manner that allows me to gain knowledge for completing the task in the future with self- assurance.  Under her instruction, I have the confidence to complete an independent research project regarding the relationship of crop diversity and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi.  The vast knowledge that Dr. Malcolm has about this topic has enabled me to understand the benefits of mycorrhizal fungi and the potential this relationship has in cropping systems.  There is no doubt that working for someone who is enthusiastic about her job, makes it a rewarding experience.  I have learned more than I could have imagined in one of the most positive learning environments I have ever experienced.  I am honored to have had the opportunity to have a mentor like Dr. Malcolm who has challenged me and enriched my desire to find a career in sustainable agriculture.” 

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