David Hale (’15) didn’t want to wait until he was an upperclassman to participate in meaningful research. He found his opportunity, and much more, at Wake Forest.
It was my senior year of high school. AP Exams, extracurricular activities and grades were my focus. But among all of this work, I still had one of the largest decisions of my life to make: Where would I choose to go to college? I wanted to attend a university that represented what I believed in and a school that would push me to further myself. Most importantly, I wanted a school that would provide me with limitless academic opportunities. As my senior year neared its end, I began to narrow my college choices down. All of the schools that I was considering had attributes that gained my attention, but there was an important question that I asked of each university: “Will I be able to participate in research after my freshman year?” The typical response to my question was that research opportunities were reserved for upperclassmen, or that to participate in scholarly research, I needed to complete all of the lower divisional first. Coming from a smaller community where the opportunity to gain laboratory experience in high school was limited, I was eager to work side-by-side with a professor in his or her lab. When I asked this same question at Wake Forest University, the response I was given was much different. I was told that if there was a class that I enjoyed or found thought-provoking, I could simply ask the professor if he or she would be interested in allowing me to be a part of his or her lab. That is exactly what I did.
David Hale (’15) works with biology professor Susan Fahrbach to transform a drinking straw into a honeybee harness.
In the first semester of my freshman year, I was taking a variety of courses, but the class that I was most excited about was BIO114, Comparative Physiology, taught by Professor Susan Fahrbach. The workload continually challenged me, but my interest in the material motivated me to work diligently. I was enthralled by the content of the course and the way in which Professor Fahrbach presented it. She was constantly organized, extremely knowledgeable and always willing to help; she was the type of professor I wanted to work with. After successful completion of the course, I asked Professor Fahrbach if she would like to apply with me for the Wake Forest Research Fellowship program, and she gladly said yes. We worked together to formulate a research question leading to the design of the procedure and the finalization of the fellowship application. Shortly after our submission of the application, we were happy to hear that our project was funded and that we would be working together during the summer.
That summer, I was able to complete a guided research project that deepened my love for science. More importantly, I was able to develop a mentoring relationship with Professor Fahrbach. During our weekly lab meetings, the lab members each established a set of goals to complete by the end of the summer. For me, one of these goals was to work with Professor Fahrbach to plan courses for the following year as well as the continuation of my undergraduate research career. Together we discussed my courses for the upcoming year, the continuation of my research, my plans for the following summer and even my plans for post-graduation. At first Professor Fahrbach was challenging me within the classroom to study the subject I love, but now she was challenging me to reach my full potential as a student and as a person. Each time I met with her, she pushed me to pursue every available opportunity. Professor Fahrbach was truly interested in me as a student, and she wanted to see that I was successful.
With the opportunity that I had over the summer, I gained much more than just another item for my resume; I developed a long-lasting mentoring relationship with a professor. Professor Fahrbach encouraged me to work hard, to be detail-oriented and to prepare me for my future. She taught me that no matter what, I need to be proud of the work that I complete. I plan to take her advice with me as I finish my four years at Wake Forest, as I continue my education and as I pursue the study of what I love.