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Academic Enrichment

The University of Montana


Kip Barhaugh's Undergraduate Research Experience


Kip Barhaugh Undergraduate Research

"I was most surprised by failure. Research is not easy. You are confronted continuously with failure and dead ends.  But as hard as these failures can be to accept they are also tremendous learning opportunities. The challenge for me was to recognize them as such."



Your Major (s):   Human Biology

Your Minor (s):    History, French

Your Faculty Supervisor (s): Kerry Bright, Laure Pengelly-Drake

Briefly describe your research project: Coxiella burnetii is the bacterium that causes Q fever in humans.  Q fever typically presents in patients with flu-like symptoms in conjunction with pneumonia and hepatitis. The bacterium is of interest because it is one of the most infectious pathogens known (ID50=1-10 bacteria), but an avirulent strain allows it to be investigated in biosafety level 2 containment laboratories.  Because the bacterium is so infectious it is a bioterrorism agent (as labeled by Homeland Security), thus understanding the way the bacterium functions can help combat possible bioterrorism threats as well as advance the field of Bacteriology. 

How did you become involved in research?
I got involved with research by heading immediately to the career services office when I first arrived on campus during freshman year.  There, I met Cheryl Minnick, who I spoke to about my interest in a career in medicine.  Luckily enough, her husband, Dr. Michael Minnick, was a Microbiology Professor on campus.  She advised me to knock on his door (and other science research labs) to see about opportunities in scientific research.  I did just that, and sure enough, I started working in Dr. Minnick’s lab first as a Lab Aide and then as an Undergraduate Researcher.

What was the most rewarding part of your research experience?
Honestly it is difficult to say.  I would have to probably choose two separate things.  The first is the incredibly in depth knowledge of the modern scientific process.  I have learned so much about science, the publishing novel information, and even how to be very precise and careful when recording results.  These may seem like simple concepts, but in a research lab they are definitively something you must learn and master.  The other most rewarding part would have to be the relationships I have built with my coworkers.  It has been such an honor and privilege to work with and learn from the scientists I have, and I cannot imagine my undergraduate education without them or their lessons.  

What surprised you during the research process?
I was most surprised by failure.  Research is not easy.  You are confronted continuously with failure and dead ends.  But as hard as these failures can be to accept they are also tremendous learning opportunities.  The challenge for me was to recognize them as such.

What doors did participation in undergraduate research open for you?
The doors are innumerable.  Not only did doors open to future opportunities (like this one), but also across campus as it allowed me to become a more involved member of the campus and scientific communities.  It a helped me feel more of a part of the campus community.

How has participating in research affected your undergraduate experience?
This experience has been transformational both in my student and my personal life.  I cannot imagine who I would be today without it.  The experience has helped shape my priorities, and expand my interests both as personally and academically.  It has taught me self-discipline, and how to be true commitment.  I cannot even begin to describe its many affects in appropriate detail.


Academic Enrichment

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