‘There are so many things we can’t see’ — resilient microbiology researcher in the making

Microbiology graduating senior Miranda Kling began her STEM schooling before transfering to WSU, but she truly found a home in small-town Pullman



Miranda Kling switched her STEM major several times, before finally landing on microbiology.

TRINITY WILLSEY, Evergreen reporter

Miranda Kling took her first biology class in freshman year while at Big Bend Community College in Moses Lake, Washington. She immediately became interested in biology. 

“There are so many things we can’t see,” Kling said. “[Microbiology] really drives all of our processes and makes the world go around.”

Kling, born in Moses Lake, will be graduating from WSU this fall semester with a bachelor’s in microbiology. She spent her first two years after high school at the community college before transferring to WSU. 

She toured a few campuses in Washington, but nothing stood out until she came to WSU. She immediately loved it there.

“Pullman has something special about it that makes you feel like you belong,” she said. 

She has enjoyed the microbiology program at WSU because the instructors make sure students know how the subject is applicable in the real world. 

Kling said she started undergrad as a STEM major and originally planned on being a family practitioner, but later changed her mind. 

“I didn’t like the fact that [health care] is becoming an automated process where you only get 15 minutes with a patient,” she said. 

Kling said she then switched to pre-pharmacy, but after a week of general chemistry, she decided it was not for her. 

That was when she switched to general biology, and after working with microscopes in her freshman class, she decided to pursue a degree in microbiology. 

Kling said she currently works in a research lab at WSU and would like to find a full-time job in Pullman to be able to continue working in the lab for a few more years. Later, she thinks she will apply to a medical technology school to become a clinical laboratory scientist. The long-term goal is to run a hospital lab.

“I am really burnt out right now; I need a break,” Kling said. “I’m not ready for more school right now, so the plan is to work until I go back.” 

In the research lab, Kling said researchers are trying to determine if organically-raised chicken meat is healthier than conventionally-raised chicken meat. They are assessing this using populations of antibiotic resistance bacteria in both types of chickens.  

The long-term goals are to explore how this affects health and human microbiomes, she said. 

Kling said she started working in the lab in September, but the past few months have been spent primarily writing the protocol and ordering equipment. The experiments are starting this week. 

She also worked in a research lab in the Allen Center her junior year for roughly five months, studying the effects of hand washing stations in rural areas of Bangladesh. 

Kling said she is unsure where her passion for science stemmed from, but when she started college she had an interest in her STEM courses and knew she wanted to pursue a career in the field. 

“Whenever we had the science days in elementary school, I hated it,” she said. “Now I’ve done a complete 180 … I just want to do science, let me collect data and analyze it.” 

Phil Mixter, WSU professor in the school of molecular biosciences, said he has been Kling’s microbiology adviser for the past two years. 

He said Kling is a very organized, motivated and methodical student who understands that a long-term goal is a series of short-term steps.

“She tracks things very well,” he said. “She follows up on details and is really careful about deadlines.” 

Kling is a resilient student, Mixter said. The microbiology program is one that becomes more difficult and increases in volume over time; she has been able to persist through it. 

She also embodies the Coug family, he said.

“She has really found herself here, from what I can ascertain as her adviser and instructor,” Mixter said. “I’ve watched her go from feeling very uncertain to gaining competency and confidence, and I think she’s really ready to graduate and become a professional.” 

Kling said she also prefers to be spontaneous with her decision-making.

“Most of the good things that happened in my life happened by accident,” she said. “The more that I research something beforehand, the less psyched I get about it, and then I start to freak myself out and second guess.” 

Outside of STEM, Kling said she grew up playing piano and did choir in high school. She kept those passions and has greatly enjoyed being involved in the WSU choir and felt at home in the community. 

With a heavy and difficult STEM course load, Kling said her favorite way to destress is by driving through neighborhoods and looking at the houses. 

“I love house hunting and saying things like, ‘Oh, I love that house’ and can imagine myself living there,” she said. 

Kling said she has enjoyed her time in Pullman and hopes she gets to stay here for a while. 

“As soon as I see that water tower over the hill, I’m like ‘Here we are, we’re home,’” she said. “Then you drive farther in and you see the Stephenson towers and the Bryan Clock Tower. It makes me so happy; I know that I’m home and I’m welcomed here.”