Ecology Research Center
at Miami University
Ethan Suding (Class of 2015)
- junior botany major
- molecular biology and German minors
- from North Vernon, IN
- loves doing research in the lab and in the field at the Ecology Research Center
When you study other things that aren't your specialty, it stretches your brain a little bit, and that makes it easier to pick up all sorts of skills a lot faster—just because you've worked your brain in a different way. Also, it just gives you another lens to see the world through. In this way, a liberal arts education promotes more understanding.
"My older sister came to Miami. I also was interested in being on the swim team, so I swam my freshman year.
"As far as majors were concerned, I came in undecided, but I always knew I wanted to do something with science. I had in my mind biology or chemistry, and I actually was thinking about psychology too. Ultimately, I came back to my interest in biology, and botany in particular. I like doing experiments in lab, but I can't stand blood or needles. Pre-med wasn't for me, but DNA has always interested me, and I think that's where the future of medicine is headed."
Best Miami Experiences
"The professors really make Miami stand out from anything else. Almost every professor that I've had a class with has been interested in helping students. My biology and chemistry professors are always looking to get students in the lab to help with research, no matter what the scale.
"Last summer, I worked with Dr. Alfredo Huerta at the Ecology Research Center. He and his wife, Nancy Smith-Huerta, were actually the two faculty members who convinced me to get into botany. We've been working with another professor from North Dakota to do a breeding experiment and raising a specific kind of genotype that rejects pollen coming from genetically modified corn. This will be developed into a seed that won't pollinate if it's contaminated with GMO pollen.
"I worked mostly in the field, hand-planting the corn and setting up an electric fence around it to protect it from animals. We then did a lot of pollinations; we had 100 rows of corn, each with at least 20 plants, so about 2,000 pollinations in total. It's all been very interesting, and we've had some good success with the project so far.
"What really interests me is the higher level science courses, where we actually start to get down to the nitty-gritty, like how specific genes are transcribed and how molecules work within cells. I'm always excited to do more hands-on stuff in the lab, working with equipment and learning new techniques. I have a focus in biotechnology for my botany major, and I also have a minor in molecular biology and a thematic sequence in biochemistry. I'm interested in getting more involved in all these aspects. On top of all that, I have a German minor, so I'm keeping pretty busy!"
Miami and Liberal Arts Education
"When you study other things that aren’t your specialty, it stretches your brain a little bit, and that makes it easier to pick up all sorts of skills a lot faster—just because you've worked your brain in a different way. Also, it just gives you another lens to see the world through. In this way, a liberal arts education promotes more understanding.
"For example, I have taken classes in the social sciences, including anthropology, psychology, and political science. It was interesting to me, someone from a hard science background, to take these classes because it took a similar experimental and result-based approach of looking at the world to understand humanity.
"Ultimately, I haven't yet decided if I want to go to graduate school or not, but I do know that I definitely want more lab experience while I'm here. Last summer made me realize there are a lot of research opportunities out there. I plan to do more research the rest of my time here at Miami."
Advice to Students
"I have two main pieces of advice: study regularly and have fun. When it comes to studying, every little bit helps. Also, I see each of my classes as a unique perspective of the world. This variety of aspects helps me learn more while keeping classes interesting.
"The reading aspect of coursework can be a bit tedious at times, and I don't always do very well in all my classes, such as architecture or political science. Yet, I see the readings as a nice break from my regular bread and butter—biology. Miami has definitely allowed me to discover what I really love, while developing a respect for subjects that I may not find as interesting."