|Ashlee teaching Sunflower Science at the Kansas Children's Discovery Center
and how to build a microbiome to 4th graders
In order to pursue her passion, Ashlee chose to partner with Ms. Caitlin Luttjohann, the director of STEAM education, at the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center in Topeka, KS because “it is a wonderful resource for the children in the area where I live.” In addition to teaching at the Discovery Center, Ashlee also reached out to Mrs. Gretchen Giffin, a teacher at North Fairview Elementary School in Topeka, KS, and has provided interactive science activities for her fourth grade class. The outreach lesson Ashlee teaches involves children building sunflower microbiomes, and this Sunflower Science lesson was derived from her own Master's program research.
|Sunflower Science Lesson
Ashlee graduated last May with a Bachelor's of Science degree in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology from Washburn University in Topeka, KS. While pursuing her undergraduate degree, Ashlee worked on several research projects. One of her main projects was “working on the characterization of a Bacillus subtilis phage that was isolated from a farm in SE Kansas.” In addition, Ashlee was involved in a collaborative project between Washburn University and Washington University in St. Louis called The Genomics Education Partnership. It was during this project that she learned to “annotate a portion of the Drosophila eugracilis genome using Drosophila melanogaster as a reference.” During her final semester at Washburn, she had an internship with Dr. Bret Freudenthal's Lab working with one of his graduate students, Matt Schaich, and they tried "to elucidate the structure of the telomerase protein, which could potentially be used in the future as a target for cancer drugs.”
Ashlee is originally from Oskaloosa, KS, but is currently living in Topeka. As for her future plans, Ashlee said “I would love to continue doing research after I graduate. Currently, I am looking into different options. When I started graduate school, I was not aware of the wide range of careers that would be available to me after graduation. Ideally, I would love to continue to work with plant associated bacteria and the microbiome.”
Funding for Workforce Development, Education and Outreach in support of graduate students is provided by the Kansas NSF EPSCoR RII Track-1 Award OIA-1656006 titled: Microbiomes of Aquatic, Plant, and Soil Systems across Kansas. The grant's workforce development and educational objectives are designed to enhance STEM education in Kansas by supporting activities that will lead to an expanded STEM workforce or prepare a new generation for STEM careers in the areas of aquatic, plant and soil microbiome environments and ecological systems.