Getting down to the business of science

A double major in biochemistry and biology. A minor in economics. These areas of study may seem like an odd combination to some, but to senior Sarah Eikenberry, it makes perfect sense.

Sarah Eikenberry
"Chemistry, biochemistry and economics complement one another and have honed my critical-thinking skills," said senior Sarah Eikenberry.

"Having an economics background helps me look at the big picture and consider real-life implications to the science and medical problems I'm facing and will face in the future," said Eikenberry. "My science classes have prepared me to be analytical and interpret results. Both fields complement each other well and have honed my critical-thinking skills."

Eikenberry plans to go to medical school after UNI. "Ideally, I will be in an M.D./Ph.D. program earning both degrees simultaneously. In medicine, I would like to subspecialize in pediatric neurology. And my Ph.D. will allow me to conduct basic science research with direct clinical applications as well as teach at a medical school."

This Des Moines native is passionate about helping people, especially young children, learn firsthand how engaging chemistry can be. She's a member of UNI's student chapter of the American Chemical Society, which has outreach events to foster children's excitement and curiosity about science.

"I read about science and medicine when I was younger, and I had a good high school AP science teacher, so I also want to help children find something they're good at," Eikenberry said.

This summer, Eikenberry is collaborating with assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry Melisa Cherney to study protein regulation and look at protein structure changes under different conditions. Her faculty-student research experience began during her freshman year.

"I don't think I would have had this opportunity at a larger school," she said. "And I probably wouldn't have gotten involved in research until I was a grad student. UNI professors are concerned about training and teaching students about the research process and helping them gain a positive experience. These experiences will set me apart since I am actually in the lab conducting research and am familiar with instrumentation and techniques."

Eikenberry is in UNI's Honors Program and lived on the Honors floor her freshman year, a Living Learning Community in Campbell Hall that houses high-achieving Honors students and Presidential Scholars. "They're go-getters," she said. "They encourage others and they're people who make a difference, so we're like-minded." Eikenberry was also a resident assistant her sophomore year.

"Initially I was nervous about UNI," said Eikenberry. "Most of my friends were going to schools on the coasts, and I was unsure of the academic rigor at UNI. But UNI has impressed me! I think I'm well prepared for opportunities after graduation."