MTSU student, faculty mentor discuss research lab ...

MTSU student, faculty mentor discuss research lab opportunities on ‘Out of Blue’ [+VIDEO]

Kevin Bicker, associate chemistry professor, and his mentee Janna Abou-Rahma, undergraduate researcher and biochemistry major, appeared on this month’s “Out of the Blue” episode to share about Abou-Rahma’s recent win at a highly competitive health challenge and her experience working in Bicker’s lab. 

“I knew I wanted to get involved in research,” Abou-Rahma said about choosing to attend MTSU. “I wanted to see behind the scenes … I wanted to kind of see what happens in a lab. MTSU was one of the major schools in Tennessee that was going to allow me to be able to do research, do so many conferences, travel and give me lots of opportunities.” 

Abou-Rahma and Bicker were one of two other MTSU faculty featured on the June 2023 edition of the university’s monthly TV magazine show hosted by Andrew Oppmann, MTSU’s vice president for marketing and communications. 

Andrew Oppmann, vice president of marketing and communications
Andrew Oppmann

Abou-Rahma turned her dream of getting involved in research into a reality when she took Bicker’s honors organic chemistry course and learned about his research lab. She joined his team as one of his mentees and has now worked in the lab for the past two years in concurrence with her studies. 

This April, Abou-Rahma presented her research at the National Conference of Undergraduate Research in Eau-Claire, Wisconsin, and earned a highly-competitive spot on a team to participate in the pre-conference Mayo Clinic Health System Social Determinants of Health Challenge. 

Abou-Rahma’s team won, a major accomplishment, and she credited her experiences in Bicker’s lab for her success.

“When things don’t work out in the lab, and that happens more often than I would like to say, you have to figure out how we’re going to solve this issue,” she said. “You have to think critically, think outside the box.”

Bicker said undergraduate research from within his college and department to across campus focuses not just on developing students’ technical skills that are going to benefit them at the next stage of their career but also on developing their soft skills. 

“(We focus on) time management, critical thinking, problem solving in the moment, working through difficult circumstances and working in teams,” Bicker said. “There are (also) networking opportunities to practice your scientific communication. My students are presenting their research every week.”

Bicker added that MTSU fosters excellent mentor-mentee relationships and encourages students from all backgrounds to get involved in research. 

“Everyone thinks that to join a research group you have to be very academically strong and technically proficient,” he said. “That’s not the case. I’m looking for students who want to show up, want to be part of a team or just have a desire to learn. If that’s the case, I can teach that student all the technical knowledge they’re going to need to know.”

“Out of the Blue” is MTSU’s monthly TV magazine show and is available anytime on the university’s YouTube channel, the True Blue TV channel, Roku, Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV. It also airs on Murfreesboro cable Channel 9 daily at 6 a.m., 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.; NewsChannel5+ at 3:30 p.m. Sundays and on other cable outlets in Middle Tennessee, so check local listings. 

It is also available as a podcast on iTunes and Google Play. 

Watch previous episodes of “Out of the Blue” at  

— Stephanie Wagner (