Research is for students, too

Sarah Borgnes works as research assistant, hopes to be physician assistant



The chemistry department designed a plan for online labs. The plan includes watching a video of the lab and using data provided by instructors.

JORDAN KERCHEVAL, Evergreen reporter

When Sarah Borgnes realized WSU did not have a pre-physician assistant club, she took matters into her own hands to build the resource she wished she had.

Then, she was a freshman. Now a research assistant and senior studying biochemistry with a minor in molecular biology, she has been the president of the club since its founding.

After officially activating her club as a Registered Student Organization, two other students expressed interest in starting the club. The three decided to join forces, and those two now serve as Borgnes’ vice president and treasurer.

“It is really nice to see the profession catching on,” she said, “since not many people know what it really is.”

After completing her undergraduate degree, Borgnes hopes to go on to physician assistant school and work in healthcare.

In addition to a full class load and serving as president of the club, Borgnes assists with research in the Goodman Lab at WSU.

The lab — headed by Alan Goodman, an assistant professor in the School of Molecular Biosciences — uses Drosophila melanogaster, a species of fruit fly, to research the immune response to infection.

Borgnes chose this lab for its focus on immunology, a subject she was interested in learning more about. Immunology is a branch of biology that covers the study of immune systems in all organisms.

“Joining this lab gave me the opportunity to expand my skills much further,” she said.

A typical shift at the lab for Borgnes consists of injecting the flies with bacteria or viruses and monitoring their mortality rate.

This semester, because she is taking six classes, Borgnes volunteers for the Goodman Lab. In the spring semester of 2016, she earned three class credits from her research position.

Afterward, she returned to volunteer with the lab, and has done so since. Her time spent there has allowed her to apply concepts she learns in class to her research, she said.

For Goodman, seeing students grow and learn to think about science and apply it to research is the best part about working with undergraduates. His time mentoring Borgnes has been great, he said.

“I think she learns how to time manage and do the research that she needs to do,” he said, “all while taking classes.”

Even though she does not get much leisure time, Borgnes’ research is one of the best parts of her college career, she said. To stay on top of her commitments, she treats her research job like another class.

“This university is full of opportunities,” she said, “so I like to trade in my free time for additional learning.”