Benyapa Khowpinitchai ’20

Major: Biology 
Minors: Art, Mathematics and Biochemistry

What made you choose the biology major?

Despite majoring in biology, I was not always a science person. I chose biology mainly because I wanted to challenge myself and find out about my potential. Before coming to college, my career goal was to become an artist. I worked on various drawing and painting projects that focused on portraying human anatomy, including the bones and the muscles. My interest in the human body and how it works essentially have grown ever since, which brought me to Carroll with a biology major. 

What is your career objective? 

My ultimate goal is to work in the research field as a medical scientist. To achieve this goal, I plan to gain more research experience and develop my skills by working as a lab technician for the upcoming years after graduation. I wish to form connections, better understand the lab culture, and more importantly find out about my specific area of interest in medical research. My long-term goal will be to attend a graduate school to further my knowledge and abilities and better prepare myself for my future career.

How has what you’ve learned so far prepared you for your future?  

I have concreted my understanding of basic biology through the introductory courses. Building upon this foundation, I have taken several elective courses that focus on expanding my knowledge of cellular biology, which is my main interest in the pursuit of biomedical research. To apply knowledge gained from these courses, I have engaged in both internal and external research opportunities throughout my time at Carroll. I have worked on multiple research projects with biology faculty. Additionally, I have also interned at various external research institutions, including the Medical College of Wisconsin and Harvard Stem Cell Institute. From my experience conducting research studies off-campus, I learned that despite coming from a small liberal arts college, I have been sufficiently prepared to carry out a well-designed research project and produce reliable findings like those from prestigious universities.  

What opportunities have you had to work closely with a faculty member and what impact has that had on your education?

I have always been passionate about research in biology. In the summer of my freshman year, I started my first independent research project with Dr. Todd Levine. My work focused on understanding leg autotomy, a behavior whereby an organism sheds off its limb in response to danger, in cellar spiders. This project is still ongoing, and we are hoping to publish our data next year. As part of the behavioral ecology course, I also had a chance to work with Dr. Susan Lewis on an animal behavior study at the Milwaukee County Zoo. The goal of this project was to determine if various genres of music could be used as an enrichment for captive birds. Findings from this study are also being prepared for publication. Moreover, for the past two years, I have been in charge of preparing and setting up the genetics and microbiology labs for Dr. Christine Schneider. Dr. Schneider was the one who advised me to pursue external research opportunities, including my current research internship at the Medical College of Wisconsin. 
Thanks to the guidance and support of all biology faculty and staff, I had an opportunity to intern at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute in the summer of 2019. Alongside famous researchers in the field, my work at Harvard was dedicated to expanding a current gene therapy for various human genetic diseases. Overall, my close relationships with the faculty have led me to both internal and external research opportunities, which greatly prepared me for a career as a scientist. 

What is the most memorable experience you’ve had in your education at Carroll?

The Cell Biology course by Dr. Cynthia Horst is one of the most useful and applicable courses I wish everyone would have a chance to take. In this course, students pair up to teach a 70-minute lecture by giving a full presentation on a selected chapter from a textbook. We focused on using mostly graphics rather than text on the presentation slides to facilitate delivering of information. In doing so, we learned to critically think about how complex concepts should be presented so that the audience could grasp them quickly and easily. Moreover, the presentation itself was created so that it guided our narrative without having to refer to any note cards. Compared to my previous presentations, the one I gave for this class was one of the most engaging and memorable presentations. Overall, the skills and techniques I have learned from this class will be very useful in the future, especially for communicating complicated research as a scientist. 

How has Carroll enriched your growth as a person?

Besides biology, I am also eager to gain more knowledge and experience in other disciplines. With the flexible course requirements Carroll offers, I was able to explore my other passions by minoring in art, math and biochemistry. In particular, I have always been interested in ways in which art and science can be combined. Through the course, Independent Study in Art, I was able to individualize my study under the guidance of professor Pacia Sallomi. In this course, I have been exploring how I could express the emotional experiences I encountered as a scientist in a series of oil paintings. I will also have a formal exhibition of this artwork as a product from this class at the end of my senior year.
In addition, I have also worked as an executive board member of Tri Beta, a national biology organization at Carroll, for the past three years. Under the guidance of Dr. Roberto Brenes, I have fostered my leadership skills, which are of great importance in personal and professional growth. 

If you were recommending your major to a prospective student, what would you tell them?

Biology is one of the broadest and most versatile fields of study. I think the privilege of the general biology major is that you get to experience all the different areas of biology, including the small scale (cellular/molecular biology), the medium-scale (physiological/organismal biology) and the large scale (evolutionary/ecological biology). Like myself and many biology majors, we found out about our specific passion in biology from simply experiencing these different fields. Once you know your true passion, you will also have a chance to individualize the rest of your study by selecting elective courses that best fit your interest. 
In addition, biology faculty and staff at Carroll are also very supportive of their students. They put effort into ensuring that all their students will become successful as an individual and in their future career and guiding you to exactly where you want to be. 

How has financial aid made a difference in your life?

As an international student, attending a university in the states is undoubtedly expensive. The tuition alone is about ten times more than that of universities in my home country. However, thanks to the International Scholarship I have received from Carroll every year, I can engage in this unique and amazing college experience.                                 

What’s your favorite place to study on campus?

The reading room at the library is always my go-to choice when I have to study for a subject that requires full concentration. Not only is the room very quiet, but I often get motivated to study more just by being in an environment where everyone is also engaged in their study. 

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