During her first year on campus, Kirby Williams focused on getting involved in activities and making Missouri State feel like home. In her second year, Kirby found a second place to call home: the lab.
“I didn’t realize I would love being in a lab so much,” she said. When Dr. Gary Meints approached her about researching in his lab, Kirby knew “that was a really big deal…I knew that it would open up a lot of doors for me and just give me a better scope of my major and help me realize I can do this.”
‘I’m not blowing up the lab’
“Most people, when they hear I am a chemistry major, they immediately go, ‘oh, I’m so sorry. That’s awful.’ But it’s really a great major and very universal, I feel. “
Kirby started working on a DNA synthesis research project in the lab, replacing hydrogen with deuterium in a process called doddering. Dr. Meints was excited about her results, and Kirby felt even more certain that chemistry was the right field for her.
Even though some of the application of the experiment is beyond her actual classwork, Kirby knows it is helping her as she delves deeper into major classes and figuring out her career path.
“I’m in some of the classes that are starting to lay the foundation for the research that I did. I’m so much better off,” said Kirby.” Other people are learning about different techniques and processes that we have to do to separate out molecules and compounds, and I already know how to do it.”
‘It’s a lot more work’
In her sophomore year, Kirby found leadership roles in the Student Government Association, the pre-pharmacy society, Gamma Pi Alpha and the University Assessment Council, and tried to keep up with all the events she wanted to make it to on campus and in the community, like Art Walk. But the hardest part was adjusting to a more serious student mode as the classes became more intense.
“You have to adapt to your new schedule because you are getting a little more into your major. It’s presented its own fair share of challenges, going into second year. It’s nice because I know where everything is, and I have a good feel for Missouri State. But at the same time, I still have to focus on, ‘this is a lot harder than freshman year’ and figuring out how to work with the new workload.”
To take a break from all the work, Kirby thinks the Foster Family Recreation Center is the perfect place to relax.
Trying new things
Getting started with hands-on research in the lab setting wasn’t the only new thing Kirby tried during her sophomore year. She also signed up for an online summer course, which she was uncertain about at first.
“I had heard it was going to be the most relaxed thing ever and others said it was going to be the most intense thing I’d experienced. Luckily, it was a really happy middle. It was nice because you just roll in straight into summer, and you just get that little bit of a break between summer and fall. You don’t let your mind go to mush.”
She was also excited to find that she didn’t lose the personal touch found in a typical seated class: “I figured you’d lose that interaction, but Missouri State has really done a good job making sure you get that personal one-on-one experience.”