Endless Opportunities


Beyond his research to discover an antimicrobial or antibiotic drug that can be derived from bacteria in sea anemones, through his work as a STEM Associate, a supplemental instructor and more, Andy Martin '14 of Glendale, Mass., arguably is invested as much in other biology students' success as he is his own.

As a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Associate, which he describes as something similar to being an advanced tutor, Martin specializes in biology. "But if people come to me looking for help in chemistry, physics or other science-related classes, I try my best to help them."

Martin also serves as a supplemental instructor for "Intro to Biology." It's a new service, offered through MCLA's Center for Student Success and Engagement (CSSE). He sits in on the class, takes notes, helps with homework, holds regular review sessions, and is a friend to these freshmen as he provides them with guidance.

And, as a lab teaching assistant, he helps field questions as he helps others arrive at the correct answers.  "I personally love it," Martin said. "I saw students who came to my review session do better on tests and eventually, they came less and less for the homework help ... which felt wonderful!"

According to Martin, MCLA provides endless opportunities to biology majors. Just a few of the careers he's considering include stem cell research or being part of a cure and finding antibiotics for various diseases at the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

Therefore, Martin is concentrating on biotechnology, which provides him with the opportunity "to experience and experiment with both macro- and micro-organisms, learn about their development and how we can use that knowledge to help people," he explained.

"I really like microbiology and learning about diseases - how to diagnose them and how to work with the many microorganisms we come into contact with. I also am fascinated with stem cells and their uses in this day and age."

At a workshop he attended at UMASS-Amherst's Human Stem Cell Research Bank and Registry during his sophomore year at MCLA, he received hands-on experience in a lab focused on real-world problems. At present, he's following a long-standing research project looking at antimicrobial bacteria in sea anemones.

Along with Dr. Ann Billetz, chair of the College's biology department and the professor who is leading the research project, Martin aims to discover an antimicrobial or antibiotic drug that can be derived from these bacteria.

"This research opportunity gave me a really good way to practice my aseptic technique, which will help next spring when I plan being a teaching assistant in microbiology, and in the future if I end up working with bacteria, stem cells or any other organic matter that must be kept as sterile as possible," Martin said.

The biology faculty, Martin said, stimulate his mind with the information they present. These lectures, he explained, always give him something to think about. "There's really way too many fun and interesting classes going on. I want to take them all!"

Beyond his varied classroom experience and responsibilities, Martin is involved in a number of clubs on campus - including the Chamber Ensemble Society, Biology Club, Computer Society, Anime Club, Outdoor Club, the Gaming Alliance and the new Bioinformatics Club.

His advice to prospective MCLA students? Get involved.

"It will give you new friends to teach you new things," he said. "MCLA - the small, friendly and always-willing-to-help community - allowed me to integrate with little effort, find my niche and join the supportive community while getting a fantastic and constantly engaging education."