by Favour Boluwade
While summer sun and fun lead to beaches, relaxation and travel for many, the Blue Raider campus provides tremendous opportunities to learn, intern and develop research in the lab for some Middle Tennessee State University students.
Yes, the campus gets noticeably quieter during the summer months, but behind the walls of many buildings, learning — which is also fun! — continues for those on a journey to a variety of academic goals.
MTSU students Sosna Kumssa, a senior biochemistry major, Parthina Abdelnour, a sophomore exercise science major, Ryuta Takahashi, an exercise science master’s student, and Kendall Benedict, a senior biology major and research assistant, recently discussing how summer is going for them amid a more laid-back atmosphere.
They shared their campus activities thus far this summer, their short- and longer-term interests, and the role MTSU has played in making their academic journey pleasant.
Prepping for medical exam after switching majors
Kumssa, a native of Ethiopia and resident of Smyrna, Tennessee, has one semester left as a biochemistry student from the College of Basic and Applied Sciences, so she’s taking a few classes and preparing for a medical examination.
“I am preparing to take my Medical College Admission Test, and I will study for about six months. So the whole point of being here this summer is that I just wanted to get through my hard classes,” she said. “I am taking Human Anatomy (and Physiology) I right now. I am a biochemistry major, and a junior, so next semester is my last one in MTSU. My summer classes end Aug. 6.”
Kumssa spoke about her reasons for switching from her original major of computer science, which didn’t align with her lifestyle preferences or her passion for mental health.
“I switched my major from computer science to biochemistry. I really like coding, but toward the end of my freshman year, I realized the lifestyle was not it,” she said. “I enjoy coding but for me to sit behind a computer doing all of that was not it; one of my biggest things is mental health, and for me to get that, I had an option between being a psychologist and a psychiatrist. To do that, I needed a major such as biology and biochemistry.
“My advisors were helpful, and I am part of (TRIO) Student Support Services, whose advisors also helped with my transition,” Kumssa continued. “MTSU has programs that help undergraduates for scholarships, career help, first-generation students’ requests, and just being there for any student who needs help. I believe people should take care of their mental health. School can be priority, but it is just school. Be able to recognize when you are feeling you need to take a break.”
Pushing to graduate early, become PA
Abdelnour, who is just about to complete her first year at the university, was excited to talk about how her steps in exercise science can lead to her career as a physician assistant, or PA. MTSU recently celebrated its first cohort for its new Physician Assistant Studies graduate program.
“I am hoping to become a PA, which is connected to medical, helping the doctor,” said Abdelnour, a Murfreesboro, Tennessee, resident. “We learn the skeletal system and the actual body. I am so interested in learning about the body, and I think people should know how the body works.”
Abdelnour passionately explained how she is interested in anatomy, which is one of her summer classes, and why she’s opting for classes right now instead of traditional summer fun.
“I am an upcoming sophomore, and I am hoping to graduate early. That is why I am getting ahead of everybody and taking classes in the summer. I enjoy learning. I still have a long way ahead of me, and I don’t want to have regrets,” she said.
“I think everyone can do school if they have a good support system from family, friends and whoever they hang out with in college. In this world anyone can make it, and if one fails, you must learn from it and keep on going,” she added.
Assisting with pandemic-related research
Benedict is not just studying this summer; she’s also doing pandemic-related research with her professor. The Lebanon, Tennessee, resident said she has been working with biology professor Anthony Newsome on “investigating properties of a gas, chlorine dioxide, ClO2, because there has been a lot of interest in killing viruses following the COVID pandemic.”
“We are basically investigating how well this gas neutralizes viruses, because saying that it kills is saying viruses are alive,” she said. “Viruses infect something to replicate. We can’t work with the COVID virus because it is too dangerous and only some laboratories in the country can. Hence, we are using a virus which only infects bacteria, and so we are working in the lab to grow the virus to see if the viruses kill the bacteria or not.”
She’s enjoying her research and said she’s “hoping to do it all summer.”
“This research has been going on before me because it is someone’s thesis, and it will go on after me. I am glad I chose to be here at MTSU,” Benedict added. “It is a good environment, especially for biology and microbiology. I took diagnostic microbiology in a previous class and (it offered) a lot of different techniques that prepared me for this research.”
Of course, summer can’t be all about serious research. Benedict said she “plays video games to relax and spend(s) time with Mom.” Benedict said she hopes to continue her career on this path and “would love to work in the lab in the future.”
Volunteering, interning, studying, with passion
A native of Japan, Takahashi wants to become a professional sports performance specialist. The opportunity to learn more drew him to campus this summer, where he’s interning with MT Athletics’ Sports Performance Center.
“I graduate in December 2022, and I am preparing for a comprehensive exam this summer while also involved in a volunteer internship,” he said.
“My master’s program is an advanced way to improve my sports training techniques. Sports training is for athletes, and I want to be more focused on exercise physiology to know how to bring all I learned in my undergraduate level. Undergraduate is basic,” Takahashi explained.
“To become better in exercise science in the United States, I am interning at the Sports Performance Center with strength and conditioning as an area of concentration. The coaches have been helpful, allowing me to join the football, baseball and golf sports training program. I love my course because I can take the curriculum into (my) internship for practical application.”
Takahashi said he counts himself lucky because “MTSU has set up programs that have all my sports performance areas in one course. The school is also famous. I am making a lot of connections, and the sports coaches I work with tell me how they don’t mind being my references.”
— Favour Boluwade (firstname.lastname@example.org)