Indiana State University Newsroom

Recent grad publishes research with faculty mentor from distinctive ISU programs

October 19, 2022

Not all recent college graduates can call themselves published scholars, but Indiana State University alumna Mallory Wilson can.

Wilson, who graduated from ISU in May, is co-author of a journal article in Phytotaxa where she, along with lead author Dr. Jeffery R. Stone, Professor of Environmental Geosciences at ISU, and fellow co-author Dr. Elena Jovanovska, a post-doctoral researcher in Switzerland, report their discovery of five new diatom species from lakes Malawi and Tanganyika in Africa.

When they began, they were investigating one diatom - single-celled algae - but after looking through all of the samples, they ended up discovering more.

"We went through the whole process of how to describe species, how to locate them, how to use scientific language to explain what separates them from everything else," Wilson said. "The whole process was really exciting."

Wilson graduated in May with a bachelor's degree in Chemistry and minors in Physics and Language Studies. She is now a Chemistry Ph.D. student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a long-term goal of working in academia.

It is just one example of the Be So Bold campaign's priority of experiential learning for students. It is also a hallmark of an ISU education. Generous donors make it possible.Wilson and Stone recently submitted a second paper to Phytotaxa where they are seeking to describe and name 25 more new species as a result of the same research project from lakes Malawi and Tanganyika.

Wilson credits the experiential learning opportunities at ISU for helping her realize her love for research and for setting her on the path to excel in a Ph.D. program.

It all started during her freshman year, when Wilson was awarded The Sycamore Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF), an award that carries a stipend and allows students to participate in hands-on research alongside faculty.

She met Stone through the program and it began a four-year experiential learning mentorship with a professor at the top of the field. Later, she continued to conduct research under Stone's direction in the Summer Undergraduate Research Experiences (SURE) Program, a 10-week intensive summer research experience for ISU undergraduates.

When she wasn't in class, Wilson spent countless hours in the paleolimnology lab in the Science Building conducting research and working as a lab technician.

SURF and SURE are among the experiential learning opportunities available to students at ISU. These experiences help them grow and learn outside the classroom through first-hand experiences. Other opportunities include faculty-led trips, study abroad, community engagement, and internships. "When I went into college, I had no real idea of what I wanted to do," Wilson said.

"Going into the lab and spending time in the microscope and spending time with the people there, learning what it takes to run a lab, learning how to balance everything while also doing my research, showed me just how important research was to me and how much I wanted to continue on that path.

"If I hadn't been in Dr. Stone's lab, I probably wouldn't be able to know the real path that I wanted to go on. ... It prepared me in a lot of different ways. When I went into my interview process at UW Madison, they definitely noticed the special experiences I had at ISU with the SURF and the SURE.

"Having those experiences made me an attractive candidate for the program. I can tell that they were really impressed by it. I feel that without my experience doing research with Dr. Stone, I probably wouldn't be here at all. I'm really grateful for it."

Now, Wilson plans to use her curiosity, ISU education, and other talents to lay the foundation for future scientific breakthroughs.

"The area of chemistry I want to go into is related to pathology and human health," she said. "I don't think I'm going to become the person who cures cancer, but I'd like to be someone who helps along the way. ... I just know that I want to be part of a movement to help improve the world."