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Hailey Christoph

Hailey Christoph Hometown: Wauconda, IL
Major: Biology
Minor: Microbiology

Why did you choose Iowa State University?

My brother attended Iowa State as a Mechanical Engineering major while I was in high school, so I spent several weekends visiting him with my family. Seeing campus was my favorite part, and I was always drawn to the architecture and landscape. My family and I always enjoyed our time with my brother and his friends, so I learned to like the people here. Even though it was not my top choice, my life would not be the same.

How did you become interested in your major?

Unlike most, I think I always knew this would be my field of study. When I was in third grade, we were raising baby chickens from the egg as a class project. My teacher had a chart where she would show us what the egg looked like inside each day, and I thought it was the most fascinating thing ever. Flash forward to middle school, and we had to collect leaves outside to identify them. Everyone groaned, but I loved it. I was so excited for that class every single day because I wanted to learn everything about biology. My teacher at this time also described careers within the biological sciences, and I could see myself doing all of them. When I got to high school, I decided to take upper level biology courses to see if that was truly what I wanted to do. I had a fantastic teacher who implemented many different experiments and learning strategies. She really helped my existing passion flourish and solidify. The material came easy to me, and I found all of it so interesting. By the time I was thinking about college, a biology degree was a no brainer.

What are your current goals following graduation?

Eventually, I would like to become a biology professor. I am very passionate about teaching others and am interested in conducting my own research. I’m not sure what specific field of study yet, so I’m taking some time off between now and graduate school. Having this time will help me think about what I want to focus on in my studies while gaining some valuable experiences that will help me to be a better mentor one day.

Directly after graduating, I will be working at Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines as a Seasonal Educator. Essentially, I will be doing outreach programs throughout the state of Iowa and within the zoo. The best part? I will be handling some funky critters!

Campus life: I was a member of Alpha Sigma Kappa - Women in Technical Studies for a majority of my undergraduate career. It is a sorority for women in STEM fields, and it helped me become a lot more comfortable and confident going into college. I got to meet a lot of amazing women who were going through the same things I was. I served as Vice President of Risk Management for a year, essentially meaning I am the peacekeeper for the chapter.

Research experiences: During my junior year, I worked in Dr. Jodi McGill’s lab out on the veterinary medicine campus. The research is focused on respiratory pathogens in neonatal calves. I did all kinds of things such as helping collect samples, making media, and practicing lab basic techniques. I started working with Dr. Eric Riddell on bumblebees last summer and instantly loved it. My project used queen bees to look at species differences in overall temperature and heat absorption. The goal was to assess how the bees may be responding to climate change, and how we could link heat absorption to population declines.

Study Abroad:  I spent a semester studying at University College Cork in Cork, Ireland, which is about 3 hours south of Dublin. Ireland’s landscape is absolutely breathtaking, and the people there are lovely. It was my first time leaving the country, so I was petrified. I am so glad I did it though. I got to learn how to live in another country and how I can adjust to their society. I learned a lot about Irish culture through food and exploring towns. I took several weekend trips around the country and even to London. I took several science and humanities courses while I was there, opening my eyes to how colleges in different countries operate. It has pushed me to want to look at graduate programs abroad. Most people do not think you could easily fit a semester long study abroad program into a biology degree, but it is absolutely possible. My biggest advice is to plan early.

What are a few things you love about your major and department?

I love the flexibility of my degree! I was able to fit a study abroad program and a minor while still finishing in four years. There’s a lot you can be involved with to help you reach your goals such as being a peer mentor or teaching assistant, doing research, and joining clubs. I have always felt comfortable within the major, especially with the learning community emphasis. The faculty has been so kind and supportive, and genuinely wants everyone to succeed in their own ways.

How would you fill in the blank for high school students interested in your field? “You’re going to love studying the sciences at Iowa State because ….”

You really can choose your own adventure. There are so many unique opportunities here that I felt like I was paving my own way the whole time. Nobody’s path into science or in college looks the same.

Do you have an example of how a professor or staff member has supported you at Iowa State?

I have had so many professors and staff that I owe my gratitude to, but I want to give a special shout out to Sarah Wehner. She has been my supervisor for the BEST learning community for the last two years, as well as my academic advisor. Many times, I have walked into her office to vent when I have been struggling, especially with decision making. I can talk to her about anything because she is a great listener, and always assures me everything will be okay. She is always receptive to my ideas and suggestions, especially about the learning community. Thank you, Sarah, for making me feel seen and heard always.

Last comments:

Something I want new students to know is that your interests will change as you go through the program, and it’s okay if it takes multiple research labs or if an experience doesn’t work out how you thought it would. This is a time to explore and open all of the doors for yourself.