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Zach Steinmetz


Hometown: Fishers, Indiana
Major: Genetics

Why did you choose Iowa State University?

Iowa State was one of the few schools offering a bachelor's in Genetics. What really drew me here was the abundant research opportunities and beautiful campus that felt like home.

How did you become interested in your major?

I had enjoyed genetics often during high school and felt that it was something I wanted to pursue more. Learning about what makes us who we are at the smallest level is really intriguing to me.         

What are your current goals following graduation?

I will be attending the University of Iowa College of Public Health to attain an MS in Biostatistics. After that, I hope to become a data analyst in some kind of health-related field.       




Campus Involvement: Being in Genetics Club gave me an opportunity to connect with other students in the genetics major as well as with faculty involved with our genetics classes. This provides a great support system to rely on during your 4 years here. My time in the club also helped me narrow down what I wanted to do after undergrad, since there are a ton of options for a major like genetics.

Research experiences: For the last two years, I've been involved with Dr. Dior Kelley's lab, where we focus on how auxin signaling modules control diverse developmental processes in Arabidopsis. Specifically, I've done lots of work with the GAUT family of genes, focusing on genotyping and phenotyping them to determine their individual and collective effects if knocked out or overexpressed. I really enjoyed working with all the members of the lab, as Dr. Kelley does a great job of fostering an environment where you feel comfortable being yourself. My time doing research in her lab has helped prepare me for the future by helping develop my independent research skills as well as helping me learn to deal with failure better. It's difficult to deal with not being the best, especially in our major, but being able to learn from mistakes is critical, and is something I learned well in Dr. Kelley's lab.

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

The people! I was a freshman in Fall 2020 during the pandemic and labs with other genetics majors were often my only time actually seeing people on a regular basis. I've met some of my closest friends in genetics and I couldn't imagine the last four years without meeting them.

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 ….”

...the faculty truly care about your success. I've gotten to work with a lot of different professors between classes, teaching experiences, and research, and the common theme among them has been the great job the department does at making sure we as students are set up for success. Whether it was working in the 423L class with Dr. Essner, being a TA in the 313L with Dr. Kraft, or my time in Dr. Kelley's lab, the faculty do a great job at helping you succeed and set yourself up in the best possible position for the future.

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

Dr. Kelley has been a huge supporter of me during my time here, especially helping me craft strong personal statements for various internships and graduate school. She has helped to develop my research abilities a lot during my time here.

Last comments:

What’s your most memorable ISU experience so far?  Going to sports events! I'm a huge school spirit person, and cheering on the Cyclones at Jack Trice, Hilton, Kansas City, and Memphis have been extremely rewarding experiences.

My best advice for new students is . . . Meet people! Take it from someone who spent his first two weeks here stuck in quarantine - freshman year is the best time to meet people. I was initially an introvert upon coming here, but making the effort to meet others has been so crucial to my success at Iowa State.

What’s something new you were inspired to try or do at Iowa State?  Ranch on pizza. It's not something we do in Indiana, but (through a terrible mistake where we mixed up mariana sauce and ranch), trying a ranch pizza (nothing else) is something I never imagined I would do, and certainly not something I will pursue in the future.

How have you grown personally at Iowa State?  I've become much better at being an open person. I was an introvert back in high school, but my time here has helped me to be more of an extrovert and better at taking care of my mental health.