3-minute read

The impact of undergraduate research opportunities at the regionals

A question-and-answer interview with Ohio State Marion alumna Madeline Ball

Bachelor of Science in Evolution and Ecology with Research Distinction, Minor in Biology, The Ohio State University
Thesis: The ecology and evolution of bite force in geomorph rodents

Q:  Tell me a little bit about the latest, most impactful research that you have been undertaking.

A:  I’m in the process of finishing up my manuscript, so I’m not necessarily doing research now, but preparing my manuscript for publication. When I did my senior thesis, I got feedback from those on my thesis committee, so I have to make those changes to be able to publish it.  I’m getting ready to apply for grad school, where I’ll be doing a new research project. I’ve talked to several potential advisors at different universities about what research projects I’m interested in pursuing.  


Q:  You’re going to graduate school, what’s the goal?

A:  I hope to be able to teach at one of the smaller branch (regional) campuses as a professor. 


Q:  In biology, right?

A:  Evolution and ecology or earth sciences. I want to do paleontology. I wouldn’t have considered this as a potential career path had it not been for meeting Dr. Jonathan Calede and being able to do research with him.  


Q:  What do you think it is about these smaller campuses that make research opportunities so available and impactful for undergraduate students?

A:  I think a lot of it stems from the fact that you’re able to have close relationships with professors, that’s what establishes those connections from the beginning.  A lot of the time, when you go to main campuses to try to do research, you find an application online and you have a bunch of people who don’t know you, and they don’t know any of the other applicants. They’re basing it on numbers and not necessarily evaluating you holistically.  It is those closer relationships that are built in the classroom that make it easier for people to have access to research opportunities.  And for what makes them more impactful… It isn’t so much that they (branch campus students) were seeking these opportunities. It’s that they find themselves just running into position openings to do all different kinds of research at these campuses. You can find new passions this way, it can be life-changing. 


Q:  What has the impact of research opportunities been on your educational career and future career?

A:  Huge. I had not even considered trying to pursue this (field) and certainly was not trying to pursue graduate school.  That was not something that I thought I would do or even thought that I wanted.


Q:  What was your original aspiration?

A:   I think I wanted to do medical stuff.  I started out as a nurse’s aide and then I came to Marion.  I graduated high school when I was 16 and then I took a year off and started doing medical-related stuff and thought it was something I wanted to do, but I wasn’t fully committed to that by any means.


Q:  Where are you from originally?

A:    I went to school in Marysville like many of the other students here.  I think we have a lot of students who come from that area.


Q:  What would you say to a prospective student or a young student who is just coming into Ohio State Marion about the opportunities you’ve received in research? And opportunities you’ve received in terms of exploration and growth?

A:  I’ve been writing my CV for graduate school applications and I am starting to look at how much support I’ve gotten from the campus. Over the years, I’ve received at least $7,000 in support for my research and endeavors. From going to conferences to going to field school.  I think that’s not something I would have been able to do at the main (Columbus) campus. The opportunity is just not there for your average student.  Being at Marion has been everything for me.  I don’t know how well I would have succeeded if I had gone to the main (Columbus) campus, or really any large school… It’s hard to even say if I would have completed my bachelor's degree if I started off there, truthfully.  


Q: Why is that?

I have (received) a lot of support from my instructors.  If they see me struggling, they ask “Hey, are you alright?”  They don’t do that on the main (Columbus) campus.  They’re not going to check on you.  The instructors here (at Ohio State Marion) are invested in you.  They see the best in you, which I think is something that you don’t get anywhere else.  


Q:  Where have you traveled?

A:  I presented in Phoenix, Arizona and that was my first time going out west.  The experience was amazing. It was a big deal for me. I was exposed to people with different backgrounds since it was an international conference.  Then I went to Chicago to a conference hosted by graduate students from the University of Chicago.  I had been to Chicago before, but I believe that was my first time in the Field Museum.  It is awesome to be able to be able to say I presented there.  I recently went to Cincinnati for a conference as well. I also went to Switzerland for field school.


Q:  Did you do work in the lab here on campus?

A:  It’s kind of complicated.  A lot of the research that I’ve done is done using museum repositories. A lot of them are online now which is awesome…  Otherwise, you would need to pay the museum to package up a bunch of specimens to send to you and then you collect your data from them.  We did that a few times, but I think those online repositories made my research possible.


Q:  Thinking about not just Columbus campus but all other colleges and universities that you could have attended, how do you think going to Ohio State Marion has prepared you for grad school compared to some other places you potentially could have chosen?

A:  I would say it’s the opportunities.  For example, being able to do field school in Switzerland.  That is something I can put on my CV that not many people can. The field school was selective. All of the opportunities I have found at the Marion campus and chose to take advantage of are what made me competitive as an applicant for the field school. 


Q:  Were you digging there or going through archives?

A:  It was a dig, so we were out all day for two weeks.  We were in the field digging for specimens.  The first week and a half we didn’t really find much.  There were 14 of us.  On the second to last day, I found a partial fossil of a sea turtle…  I felt lucky to find that. 


Q:  Do you think you’ll be back here teaching a young person like yourself?

A:  I hope so.  That’s my goal.  The impact that the mentorship I have found here has had on my life cannot be overstated.  Being able to provide that for somebody else from a position of leadership would mean a lot to me.