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Abby Wohlfert: Doing Research as an Undergraduate

Pre-med student travels to Tennessee to do research with professors.

Alma College senior Abby Wohlfert, left, is pictured with assistant professor Jennifer Vranish at... Alma College senior Abby Wohlfert, left, is pictured with assistant professor Jennifer Vranish at Tennessee Tech University, where Wohlfert studied the durability of Achilles' tendons as part of an Alternative Break.

ALMA — For some, the idea of a fun and interesting activity in the summertime might be watching a baseball game, swimming at the beach or cooking at a barbecue. For Abby Wohlfert, it’s taking a road trip — to a university laboratory, to do science experiments.

Wohlfert, a senior from Fowler, Mich., spent part of her summer taking a trip to the mechanical engineering department at Tennessee Tech University, which has a research partnership with Alma College’s own integrative physiology and health science (IPHS) department. While in Tennessee, Wohlfert, using materials from the Alma College cadaver laboratory, tested the durability of Achilles tendons, in the hopes of reducing injuries in athletes.

“In my junior year, I went to instructor Brittany Luckett and assistant professor Jennifer Vranish with an idea for my senior thesis, which would meet my goal of heavily utilizing the cadaver lab. Unfortunately we realized, we didn’t have the equipment we needed to do this research here on campus,” said Wohlfert, an IPHS major on a pre-med track.

“Thankfully, we were still able to make it happen. I’m grateful to Alma for the opportunities to do research as an undergraduate.”

Among her other activities, Wohlfert is the president of the Alternative Breaks program on campus, which provides opportunities through direct, hands-on service, education, and reflection that seeks to meet the needs of our local, national, and global community.

Alternative Breaks she has taken during college career include trips to New Jersey to build houses with Habitat for Humanity and Frankfort, Mich., to help cleanup efforts at a community garden that feeds locals in the area.

“We want to do good work in the community, and come together as a community,” Wohlfert said. “No matter what, wherever we go, we always come back saying, ‘How can we bring this back to Alma? How will this benefit our community and the town around us? It’s a part of being a global citizen.”

In addition to her work with Alternative Breaks, Wohlfert helps with preparing laboratories for introductory chemistry courses and serves as hospitality coordinator for the Alma College Chapel. She hopes to someday attend the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, to pursue a graduate degree in anatomy.

“I’m grateful for my time at Alma, because it’s given me a very well-rounded education, with extra emphasis on anatomy and physiology, while allowing me to make friends and mentors for life,” Wohlfert said. “I think if I had gone to a larger university, I would feel like a number. Here, I feel like a whole person.”

Story published on September 19, 2022