Close Menu

Taylor Burchard '22

Research experiences open world of possibilities in astrobiology

By seeking hands-on opportunities in the sciences at Whitworth, biology major Taylor Burchard '22 has discovered a curiosity about outer space and developed the diverse skill set she'll need to study it in graduate school.

Burchard has been heavily involved with the Whitworth Engineering & Physics Department. Not only has she worked as a research assistant in the Microdevices Lab for two years, but she has also been part of the department's CubeSat nanosatellite project and has experimented in near space in one of her classes. "(The latter two experiences) both involved outer space and high altitudes," Burchard says. "I began to see how biology could be applied toward outer space, and I found overlap in the sciences to be exciting."

A co-founder of Whitworth's Astronomy Club, Burchard is currently applying to graduate programs in astrobiology, a field that combines the life sciences and physical sciences. "It is an interdisciplinary field that searches for extraterrestrial life, clues to the origins of life, potentially habitable planets, and more," she says. "My allure to outer space is motivated by the beauty and mystery of it. I am inquisitive about biology, physics, astronomy and the way the universe works."

Burchard says her experience as a student researcher in Assistant Professor Philip Measor's lab has prepared her well for her future. "Becoming a member of the Microdevices Laboratory with Dr. Measor was the highlight of my undergraduate academic experience," she says. "Working in this laboratory exposed me to how biology and engineering can work together to create something applicable to both fields."

With Measor, Burchard demonstrated that a 3D-printed microfluidic device can successfully analyze C. elegans, a worm used in human cancer research, offering researchers a faster and cheaper method of analysis. The pair presented their findings in January at the SPIE Photonics West conference in San Francisco.

Burchard says Measor has served as a mentor to her and has helped her to become a better student, researcher and presenter. "I found my confidence as a student through being a student researcher," she says, "and so I thank him for that."

Another key to Burchard's success at Whitworth was learning she has attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. "Getting diagnosed with ADHD my junior year was an epiphany," she says. "Learning how to work with my own brain rather than pushing myself until burnout made me more successful in all areas of life. Learning what works for me and getting accommodations helped me significantly. Perseverance, diligence, passion and hard work are gains from ADHD, so I wouldn't change a thing."

No doubt those traits will be useful as Burchard pursues studies in astrobiology. As Measor says, "Taylor has an exceptional work ethic and a high amount of perseverance. That combination is critical for graduate studies in the sciences. We are proud of her accomplishments and know that she will go on to great things in the future."


Crucial Co-lab-oration

Psychology lab researches treatments for epilepsy, depression

Drew Craddock '21

The cool factor of crystals

A Change of Heart

Hannah Jian Rzeszewicz '18 follows passion for marine conservation