Prof Alters Sabbatical Plans to Assist Student

Biology Faculty Member Doug Woodmansee and Junior Sarah Sinclair Researching Parasites

May 21, 2013

Biology professor Doug Woodmansee works with junior Sarah Sinclair in one of the biology labs.

Biology professor Doug Woodmansee works with junior Sarah Sinclair in one of the biology labs.

Biology professor Douglas Woodmansee was looking forward to having a quiet, faculty sabbatical away from the College for a semester until one of his top students starting talking about parasites.

He ended up returning to campus regularly this spring to work with junior biology major Sara Sinclair on her research project titled “Isolation and Analysis of the DNA and RNA of Hymenolepis Diminuta to Create Wide-Range Anti-Cestodiasis Vaccine in Expression Vectors.”

“It was that combination of a student that I had confidence in and a topic I have a passion for (parasites) that did the trick,” Woodmansee said. “Sarah is doing very well. She is one of the most enthusiastic students I have ever worked with and she has the intellectual skills to back up her enthusiasm.”

Sinclair praised Woodmansee’s generosity and his mentoring skills.
“His patience and eagerness to work with me on this project — whether we obtain the results we thought we would or need to head back to the drawing board — are incredible,” she said. “Doug’s knowledge is outstanding — he is passionate about his career and seems to enjoy sharing tidbits with me.”

Sinclair noted how the research has resulted in enhanced classroom learning as her hands-on experience complements what she’s learned from textbooks and lectures.

“There are a lot of ‘figure it out’ moments in this process that push you to learn more about this topic than you might in a normal class,” she added. “I am also learning many technical processes that will benefit me in my future career.”

She plans to attend veterinary school and ultimately become a large animal veterinarian with a specialization in exotic animals.

Trudy Aebig, Ph.D., wasn’t surprised to learn of Woodmansee’s nurturing support as a mentor of Sinclair’s. She’s now gone full circle from being a biology/chemistry student at WC that graduated summa cum laude in 2004 to teaching at the College and assisting students in the lab. In fact, she took over several of Woodmansee’s courses during his sabbatical.

“Teaching at WC feels like I have returned home,”Aebig said. “I tell my students that I have literally been where they are now and that I want them to experience the same positive academic environment and self-accomplishment that I had as a student.”

Her research project with Woodmansee focused on detection and comparison of mRNA expression of cell cycle regulatory genes between free-cycling and cell cycle arrested Toxoplasma gondii, an ongoing research project that Woodmansee still features in his lab.

“Mentored undergraduate research helps student to develop analytical and technical skills that give them a competitive edge for graduate school and technical careers in scientific research,” said Aebig, who holds a Ph.D. in cell and molecular biology. She has also taught at Miami University.

“When I interviewed at UC’s College of Medicine for the graduate program, I was told they were very impressed with the experience I acquired as an undergraduate. I felt confident beginning my graduate studies and research because of the ‘tool box’ I acquired at Wilmington College.”

Woodmansee said Aebig’s research project was the “most difficult” ever attempted at WC and it caught the attention of some of the nation’s most outstanding experimental parasitologists when she presented at the 2005 Midwestern Conference of Parasitologists.

“That was a very proud moment for me,” he recalled.

Woodmansee said graduate and professional schools “expect” students to have participated in research projects and employers seek out WC biology graduates “because they know they have real lab experience.”