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Abigail Killian: Learning by Doing

“I came to Alma because of the small class sizes and how personal everything is on campus. Professors care so much about your success and it drives you as a student to be better.”

Abigail Killian of Traverse City,Abigail Killian is pictured with Alma College assistant professor of psychology Mark Mills, whom ...Abigail Killian is pictured with Alma College assistant professor of psychology Mark Mills, whom she worked with to study COVID-19 on campus in the fall 2020 term. a junior, has grown and changed in positive ways during her time at Alma College. The coursework involved in a biology major and a psychology minor can be difficult, she said, but it has prepared her well for her future career path.

“Personally, I have grown out of my little shell. I have become much more social because of the community that is Alma College,” Killian said. “Professionally speaking, I have become much more confident in my ability to communicate. This goes for new people, such as prospective students, but also professionals across the college and from the outside community.”

Killian has been involved in two research programs at Alma. Alma College Research Network (ACORN), a program designed for incoming first-year science and mathematics students, engages students in a research-like atmosphere prior to their arrival on campus. Students work side-by-side with a professor on a selected research topic, then give a poster presentation with their findings.

Killian was part of another research program, e-STEM Cooperative Research Experience (CORE), a paid research experience, where students select a professor and are able to design their own research projects.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Killian decided she wanted to help contribute to the understanding the virus. With two other students and Mark Mills, assistant professor of psychology, Killian studied the psychological and biological effects of COVID-19 on students.

Killian is also part of Alma’s International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) team, another student-run research experience in which the team presents its findings at international competitions. “We have been successful enough to claim to be the ‘best in the Midwest’ and plan to continue holding this title,” Killian said.

Abigail Killian is pictured at left, working on a project as part of the Alma College Internation...Abigail Killian is pictured at left, working on a project as part of the Alma College International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) team.While being a full-time student and working on research, Killian also works in the college admissions office, giving tours around campus to visiting students. These tours also help the college strengthen its efforts for recruitment in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) majors, which Killian personally enjoys.

In addition, she assisted professors in the classroom as a supplemental instructor for an introductory biology class.

Alma has given her the tools to be successful after college, Killian said.

“I have attended workshops on resume-building, cover-letter writing, and interview preparation. My communication and leadership skills have also improved immensely since my time at Alma has started,” she said.

After college Killian plans on working in diagnostic laboratories before applying to graduate programs to pursue genetic counseling, with a specialty in prenatal and maternal health.

Story published on January 05, 2021