Natural Sciences Department

News and Events Details

Student conducting research in Thailand

Posted on Jun 10, 2011
Amy Kemen is one of two students chosen from a nationwide pool of applicants for a microbiology research program in Thailand.

By Brittany Berrens
University Relations student writer

Amy Kemen, a University of Wisconsin-Superior student from Virginia, Minn., is taking her love of science halfway around the world this summer for a research opportunity at one of Thailand's top medical schools.

Kemen, who's majoring in biology and chemistry secondary education, will take part in the Microbiology in Thailand program. She will spend 10 weeks conducting research at Mahidol University in Bangkok. The trip offers her an opportunity to work on one of that university's many research projects in fields such as immunology and virology.

Kemen said the experience will enable her to explore career options by meeting other scientists and getting advice.

"Mostly building a network of potential grad schools and people all over the world so I know what people are working on and who to talk to," Kemen said. "I want to see if I'm research material."

The Microbiology in Thailand program is offered through UW-Madison. Only five students are selected to participate each summer, with three spots reserved for UW-Madison students. Kemen and one other student were selected from a nationwide pool of applicants.

The program's selective nature makes the trip a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Kemen.

"I know I have to do this because I'll never get the opportunity to do this again," she said. "Because of Thailand's location in the tropics, it's research I'd never have an opportunity to do here."

Dr. Ralph Seelke, chair of UW-Superior's Natural Sciences Department and professor of microbial genetics and cell biology, is Kemen's academic advisor. He said the Microbiology in Thailand program will prepare her well for graduate school.

"Certainly any time you can do graduate research with good faculty in a good place, it's always beneficial," Seelke said. "Then there's the added component of doing microbiology in a foreign country where some of the infectious diseases are a big issue. It's a combination of biology and global awareness."

Kemen has worked closely with Seelke throughout her college career. Along with being her advisor, he has worked with her on a research project on the evolutionary potential of E. coli bacteria.

"He's … a mentor in helping me decide which direction I want to go in after graduating," Kemen said. "His support in research has helped me be more confident in what I'm looking into."

Bangkok is home to more than 9 million people. Kemen is preparing for the trip by using Skype to connect with the other students in the program. She'll also be taking a Thai language course before departing Superior in May. Kemen said she's excited to be immersed in the Thai culture and to apply the knowledge she gains in microbiology to her future career.

"I love soil," Kemen said with a laugh. "My dream, my ultimate goal, is to save the soil and fix how people use it. That's the dream."

News Contact: Al Miller | 715-394-8260 | amiller{atuws}
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