Spotlight: Maja Johnson (’13)

Posted on September 20th, 2011 by

Maja Johnson (Biology, Class of 20 13) started researching with Amanda Nienow, professor of chemistry, during the fall of her sophomore year. Although she plans on pursuing a health related career such as public health, or becoming a physician or physician’s assistant, Johnson decided to research in order to build her lab technique and critical thinking skills.  “I love science and it’s an incredible opportunity to immerse yourself in something with out a set answer; to explore different areas,” said Johnson. The unknown aspects of research force students to think through their experiments carefully, and when their results do not turn out they way they expected, students and their professors try to figure out why.

Maja Johnson presents her findings at a weekly Summer Research Meeting.

In the process, research builds and reinforces unexpected skills. “In my research, I pull a little bit out of everything I have learned at Gustavus,” said Johnson. “My pesticide is an organic molecule, and so the two years of organic chemistry I took helps me to apply my knowledge of reactions.  Also, we are studying the kinetics of the chemical process, which I learned about in my first year of chemistry. In biology we studied plant functions at the cellular level, and I have also drawn on calculus a lot for my project, and later, writing skills will be important so I’ll be able to make a poster. At a liberal arts college you not only learn technique, you learn how to communicate results to the outside world.”

Not only is Johnson benefitting from her research, but she hopes that in the future, other will benefit from her results as well. “It feels rewarding to do something that may be applicable to the world outside of the lab, said Johnson. “We’re researching the effects of a pesticide commonly used in agriculture, so it could actually affect the future of agriculture in Minnesota. It feels good to work for a cause.”

Labmates Maja Johnson (left) and Megan Crow (right) set up a yogurt parfait bar for summer researchers' Friday snack time.


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