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Sophie HalmaSophie Halma '24

Why did you decide to study biology?  

"I really love living things! All of my life I have had a growing fascination with how things live or even what constitutes being a living thing. When I first came to Whitworth, I wasn't sure if I wanted to actually major in biology because I'm interested in a lot of things... the farther along I got into the biology track, the more I began to fall in love with biology and the study of life. I am so happy with my decision to start out as a biology major, and I love what I am learning about!"

What classes have been your favorite so far?  

“My favorite biology class so far would probably be BI 240, Plant & Animal Biology. I especially enjoyed the animal part where Dr. Tsuchida started by teaching us about sea sponges and eventually we progressed along the evolutionary tree to vertebrates. I often look at living things and wonder, "how does that animal work?" This class was basically a crash course in the many ways things can be alive. Outside of biology, my favorite class would be CS Lewis, taught by Forrest Baird. In this class, you take a deep dive into the works of CS Lewis, reading 10 of his most well-known books and other excerpts of his writing too. Forrest is incredibly wise and thoughtful and broaches many of the class's topics with grace and humility. He encouraged us to think for ourselves while also encouraging us to really consider the implications of our beliefs."

Tell us about a unique experience you’ve had or project you’ve worked on for your major.  

“I had the opportunity to do summer research with Associate Professor Grant Casady. We worked along with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to investigate the usage of drone imagery in estimating shrub height as well as evaluating shrubsteppe habitat health after wildfires. This was a really unique experience that introduced me to a lot of important connections in the field of ecology as well as taught me a lot about the research process. We had the chance to present our research project at The Wildlife Society's national conference too."

What advice would you give to someone thinking about majoring in biology?  

“If you have a love for learning and a love for studying living things, you should definitely consider being a biology major. If you are uncertain about what you want to major in but are considering biology, I would recommend starting out as a biology major because it is a harder major to switch into later along than most other majors."

What’s your dream job?  

“I'm not really on track to do this, but I would love being a marine biologist. I love the ocean and the mystery of it. There's so much still left to discover! Otherwise, I am currently on the pre-medicine track and am planning on becoming a physician."

Who are three people who have made a difference for you at Whitworth?

“One person who has made a big difference in my time at Whitworth is Dr. Samantha Miller. She is an amazing professor in the theology department. I joined a Life Group she ran my freshman year that continued to meet well into my sophomore year. I also took the Monasticism: Old & New class with her in Jan Term. I have really valued her mentorship in my life. Another person who has had a large influence on me is Forrest Baird. I took his class on CS Lewis during the fall of my freshman year, and that class taught me a lot of important life lessons as well as connected me to some other students who I am still good friends with today. Lastly, one other professor who has made a big difference for me in my time at Whitworth is Grant Casady. I didn't have a place to stay last summer but had been offered a spot to do research with his team. When I told him I didn't have a place to stay, he offered to host me for the summer, which made an amazing research opportunity turn from a possibility to an actuality. I am very thankful for the mentorship and guidance of all of these people."

How would you describe Whitworth?

“I would describe Whitworth as a unique meeting place of culture, academia and people. I have been exposed to a variety of cultures and ways of thinking and have been taught by many brilliant professors... It would probably be possible to just come here to get your education or your degree and leave, but if you want to become something more during your time here, there are countless resources for you to learn and grow in both mind and heart. Whitworth is a place of possibility."

Brock PetersonBrock Peterson '22

Why did you decide to study biology?

Biological sciences, especially those focused on zoology and aquatic systems, have been a love of mine since I was very young. I have always had a passion for the living things around me, and I could not imagine doing anything other than enjoying and studying the wonderful creation to which humans have been blessed.

What are some of your favorite classes so far?

My favorite classes so far have been General Biology II: Organismal Diversity and Invertebrate Biology & Symbiosis. Both classes showed so many examples of organisms with unique adaptations that blow me away and remind me of the many reasons to study and protect the environment.

Tell us about a unique experience you've had or project you've worked on for your major. 

During my sophomore year, I worked on a research project with Dr. Casady and another student that investigated the effectiveness of perch deterrents on avian predators. During the course of the project, the other student and I sorted through thousands of trail camera pictures in order to document perching events. The data was then presented by Dr. Casady to the Bureau of Land Management. It was great, as I learned a lot about the research process, gained experience in processing data, and saw the real-life significance of ecological research.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about majoring in biology? 

If you have a passion for the subject, go for it and do it wholeheartedly. It is not necessarily the easiest subject, and it requires quite a bit of work, but the material you learn is amazing and the work you can do in the future is extremely important. It is such a versatile degree that can be applied to so many fantastic careers, so do not be worried whether there will be a job that fits your interests.

What's your dream job?  

My dream job is being a professor of aquatic ecology and fisheries science. I want to use my passion to inspire the next generation of biologists and be able to do research on aquatic resources, such as salmon, that are so integral to economies, cultures and ecosystems.

Who has been an important connection for you at Whitworth, and why? 

I have had so many great professors, but Dr. Casady has been such a great connection at Whitworth! He has been so kind to me – helping me complete internship applications, plan for the future, and get involved with programs that help prepare me for my future career. He has also been someone who I have always felt comfortable going to for advice. I am so glad that I have had the opportunity to get to know him over the past couple of years.

Why did you choose to attend Whitworth?

Whitworth felt like a great fit to me because of the small class sizes and tight-knit community. Also, I wanted an environment that understood my Christian motives for doing science.


Rachel Ponting '22

Why did you decide to study biology?
Since I was young, my favorite classes in school were always science related. I took my first biology course in eighth grade, and after that I had a fascination with the subject. In my studies, I often find value when I gain knowledge about how different life systems intertwine or when I can achieve better understandings of nature. To me, that it was biology is about in a broad sense, so it felt right to choose that as my major.

What are some of your favorite classes so far? 
My favorite class so far has been Ecology with Dr. Tsuchida. I was excited to take the course because I was intrigued by the content and what I had heard from previous students. Like the reason I chose to major in biology, I love learning about how ecosystems work individually and also how they work together. This course gave me that, and I was able to apply it to what I saw in my surroundings, which deepened my fascination for the subject.

Rachel Ponting

Tell us about a unique experience you've had or project you've worked on for your major.
A project I have been working on since June 2020 is researching the embryological development of zebrafish retinas with Dr. Putzke. It has been a really valuable experience to put in hours in a lab and work hands-on with different protocols and organisms.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about majoring in biology?
My advice to anyone considering to be a biology major is to persevere through the first few biology courses, especially when it gets to be daunting. Biology is a broad subject, and if there is an aspect that really intrigues you, I would say push through. General biology touches on many different parts of biology as a whole, and there will be some topics that aren't the most interesting to you, and that is OK. The best people to also talk to about this are the biology professors. The entire department is extremely helpful and wants to watch you succeed. It can feel intimidating to attend office hours or even email a professor, but the best advice I can give would be to just go to those office hours or send that email, because they want to get to know you and help as much as they can.

What's your dream job?
My dream job is to be a biological researcher. I don't have a specific area of focus as of right now, but I am hoping that as I get more experience working on different projects, I will be able to narrow that down.

Who has been an important connection for you at Whitworth, and why?
An important connection at Whitworth for me has been Dr. Putzke. I was granted the opportunity to do research with him during the summer of 2020, and it has been the most valuable experience I have had so far at Whitworth. It has allowed me to see that this is the right direction for my career because Dr. Putzke has pushed me to learn how to be an organized and ethical researcher in the lab. Not only that, but outside of the lab, Dr. Putzke opens up the floor for conversations that can be difficult topics of discussion but are important to have. Dr. Putzke has been a key mentor for me at Whitworth, and I am really grateful to have gotten to know him over this past year.

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