Research, experience pointed me toward the right degree


Nate Lilla mixes a solution to test for magnetic resonance. Courtesy of Nate Lilla


Reflecting on my freshman year here at UNK as a health science student, I would say that I enjoyed every step of the way. 

When I was originally looking at colleges to obtain my undergraduate degree before pursuing higher education, I knew I wanted to stay within the state for the first steps of my future career. Coming from Omaha, I thought Kearney would be an excellent option for me because it would give me the opportunity to step out of the city and meet people from all over the state. UNK would also have the resources and faculty ready to support me through my education by providing a small class setting. 

During my first week on campus, all the health science students were invited over for a social event. This gathering provided us the opportunity to meet each other and see if we were in each other’s classes so we could start forming relationships with other health science students; This was something which I really appreciated. The Health Science programs do a great job of communicating everything that’s going on around Kearney and the general area, so we can get experience in different fields and disciplines. In doing this, health science students can get a better understanding of what their future career may look like. 

Building off of that, when I first walked into Bruner Hall for the first time, I felt intimidated by the amount of talent and knowledge within that building alone. What I realized as I went through my first semester, though, is that the professors there are truly looking for the best in you and looking for you to do your best in your classes. They push you to deepen your knowledge. 

When I came back from Christmas break last January, I was talking to some people and saw a paper advertising the Research Apprentice program for chemistry at UNK and I knew that that was something I wanted to do. I’ve wanted to research even before I got to UNK, but I didn’t know what I wanted to research or what I wanted to do. 

So, I contacted Dr. Thomas in the chemistry department here and he worked with me this semester. He showed me how to do certain things in chemical research, let me do hands-on work and helped me gain experience of what a research environment is like. 

After going through that, I now have an idea for a research topic I would like to look into.  I plan on finalizing the research topic this summer when I have some more time to think about it, so I don’t rush it. After getting a small taste of it, I’d like to continue down the research path. So, I also plan on applying for the Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence program in the fall.

Overall, I truly have enjoyed my time being a health science student. My classes may be getting harder as I continue my education at UNK, but as long as I have the support system I do now, I don’t have any worries about my career falling short of what I’ve dreamed it to be since I was a kid.