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Great Opportunities

12/22/2010

Danielle Morrissey '11 of Westfield, Mass., is a biology major with a chemistry minor. An MCLA ambassador since her sophomore year, she also is helping the College to be recognized on other campuses through her research, internships and a publication in the scientific journal, Plant Cell.

"We're a small school and it's good to show that we do have these great opportunities here," Morrissey said.

The summer before she began her college career, Morrissey participated in LEAD Academy, a program that prepares freshmen to excel MCLA, discover pathways to academic success and distinguish themselves as leaders.

"That was a fantastic experience. It really got me introduced to what college life was all about and how to get really involved," she said.

Morrissey has worked hard to maintain a high grade point average and to serve internships. That academic work, she said, is balanced with her work as an MCLA ambassador for the Office of Admission.

"It was a really great learning experience. I've learned a lot about public speaking skills from working there. I've worked really hard to bring attention to the sciences and the great program that we have here," she said.

It is important to MCLA professors that their students thrive. When Morrissey visited the College as a prospective student, she met a few of the science professors.

"I could just tell from being here how passionate they were about what they were doing and how much they loved what they were doing. I just wanted to be in that environment, where people really cared about what they were teaching," Morrissey said. "It matters to them whether or not their students succeed. They care. If they see potential in a student they definitely call you out on it and point out to you that you're good at this.

"I knew I didn't want to go to a huge school that I was going to be a number. I wanted my professors to know who I was," she continued. "Between the internships and working for admissions I've really grown to talk to people and to be able to walk up to them and start conversations. That's an important part of education."

During her freshman year, professors Dr. Ann Billetz and Dr. Robert Harris recognized that she excelled in biology and chemistry, and urged her to apply for an internship at Williams. There, she worked a bio-chem lab to perfect an assay (a process or a procedure to measure something) to measure quantitatively the amount of a particular enzyme that was produced by plants. The process involved extracting proteins from the leaves and putting them through a series of chemical reactions.

"They had never gotten an assay to work on that plant before. I took a whole bunch of different assays that had been done on other plants and on animals a lot of other things, put them together and kept trying and trying and trying until I got it to work," Morrissey said.

Her work there was published in November 2008.

During the summer of 2009, Morrissey traveled with MCLA's Dr. Emily Mooney to Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Penn., to conduct field research, examining genotype by environment. She and Mooney also looked at the Japanese knotweed, an invasive species, and the effects of caterpillars on the plant.

Morrissey presented two different projects at two MCLA Undergraduate Research Conferences, and at the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC) Northeast Regional Undergraduate Research Conference at MCLA in October.