Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2011
OCEANS AWAY: LANDLOCKED LOCATION DOESN'T STOP STUDENT FROM SEEKING MARINE BIOLOGY CAREER
MANHATTAN -- To paraphrase Shakespeare, the world is one's oyster.
That saying couldn't be truer for Kansas State University student Andrew Collingwood, junior in microbiology from Leawood.
More than halfway through his college degree in engineering at K-State, Collingwood decided to scrap it all and change directions toward his true passion: an ocean-related career. Despite a lack of marine-based majors, he still wanted to graduate from K-State. Therefore, Collingwood became innovative and persistent in opening up doors for his future.
"I was trying to think of anything that would allow me to move into marine stuff because we don't have anything like that at K-State," Collingwood said. "I don't want to move to Florida to go to school yet, so I thought microbiology is everywhere."
Collingwood, determined to gain experience in a marine microbiology lab, sought out and applied for an unpaid summer internship at Mote Marine Laboratory, a marine research laboratory and aquarium in Sarasota, Fla. He started his internship under Kimberly Ritchie, staff scientist and program manager for the marine microbiology program at Mote.
"Since it was an unpaid internship, I honestly expected to be washing dishes and doing lab maintenance things, but I learned a lot from hands-on experiences," Collingwood said. "My mentor, Kimberly Ritchie, even gave me permission to start working on my own project."
Collingwood's determination to succeed in marine microbiology made a big impression on Ritchie.
"Andrew made himself indispensable early on," Ritchie said. "He is a sponge for new information, incredibly bright and his work ethic is beyond reproach. He figured out what was needed and just did it, whether it was the least appealing task or the most complex assay. Andrew picked up on these projects like they were second nature."
Collingwood conducted several different experiments while at Mote. One of them was to investigate whether the bacteria found in the mucus of a cownose ray can fight off antibiotic resistant human pathogens.
"We isolated colonies of bacteria from that mucus and then tested them against human pathogens, such as vancomycin-resistant enterococci and methicillin-sensitive staphylococcus, to see if it would inhibit the growth of those human pathogens," Collingwood said.
The internship at Mote helped Collingwood solidify his future career choice and gave him experience to get a job as a student lab technician during the school year under Lynn Hancock, K-State Division of Biology associate professor. Hancock is also studying antibiotic resistant pathogens.
"Kimberly Ritchie spoke highly of Andrew in terms of his work ethic and desire to learn things," Hancock said. "As we send our students for internships around the country, it's good to know that they work hard and use their ability to think to enhance the institutional reputation of K-State. Andrew's background and training will make him a valuable contributor to my own research."
Collingwood will return to Mote next summer, this time as a paid intern -- the first in Ritchie's lab.
"Andrew has a drive that will guarantee success in whatever he wants," Ritchie said. "I can't wait to watch and see."
Collingwood's fortitude to find his true passion in life has benefited him in many ways. He realized that it's never too late to follow your dream, persistence pays off, and marine microbiology is the best. He looks forward to returning to Mote next summer as a paid intern both because of the science and the unique atmosphere of Mote Marine Lab.
"Considering that it was an aquarium and not just a lab, I think I had the best view of any microbiology lab ever," Collingwood said. "Three of the walls are glass windows because I was one of the exhibits at the aquarium. Tour guides would say 'look at our scientists working,' and kids would bang on the glass."
Collingwood is a graduate of Shawnee Mission East High School, Prairie Village.