It is our pleasure to announce that the winner of the first WKU Biology Faculty Mentoring Award goes to Dr. Jarrett Johnson. This award comes with a $1,000 prize for Dr. Johnson’s professional development account. Dr. Johnson has actively engaged students both in the field and in his laboratory since he has arrived at WKU. He has mentored 9 thesis graduate students, as well as serving on the committees of many others. He has also mentored approximately 35 undergraduate students, including 4 Honors thesis students, 4 Gatton Academy students, 2 NSF REU students, and 7 students with FUSE grants. Here are some comments from one student’s nomination letter:
“I would like to nominate Dr. Jarrett Johnson for the faculty mentoring award for undergraduate mentoring. He continually demonstrates his dedication to the students working in his lab and is committed to developing his students as researchers and as scientists to best equip them for their future careers and endeavors."
"Dr. Jarrett Johnson addresses the needs of his individual students and is more than
willing to meet with students to answer questions or demonstrate lab techniques. He
shows quick discernment and efficiently troubleshoots problems as they arise. He is
very knowledgeable and relays information to his students effectively. He helps students
make practical decisions for themselves by providing guidance when it comes to advancing
the research project. He demonstrates patience when his students make mistakes or
waste reagents, and he values integrity of the research process over making quick
progress or producing results."
"Dr. Jarrett Johnson is passionate about his research and shares his findings from the field and from the lab with students who are interested. He has furthered my interest in conservation biology and has done the same for his other students. His skills, knowledge, and effort make him my nomination for the faculty mentoring award for undergraduate mentoring.”
A well-deserved congratulations to Dr. Johnson!
The opportunities in the Biology Department truly embody the core mission of WKU as “a student-centered, applied research university, which is to inspire innovation, elevate communities and transform lives” in the words of WKU President Timothy Caboni. Our departmental goals are firmly rooted in teaching excellence with the integration of experiential learning through laboratory and field based research in our curricula. Furthermore, our teaching and research extend from our campus laboratories, to our local field sites including the 1300 acre Upper Green River Biological Preserve, all the way to the Caribbean, China, and Africa. From studies on microbes to megafauna, and genes to ecosystems, undergraduate and graduate students play an active role in the advancement of knowledge taking place in the Department of Biology at WKU.
For our majors, exploration begins with an introductory sequence and leads to specialty courses, internships, and research opportunities. Many students from the University Honors College major in biology because of the high quality education and the numerous enticing career prospects.
Our graduate program offers thesis and non-thesis options for the Master of Science degree as well as a 15-credit Graduate Certificate. Undergraduates go on to medical, dental, veterinary, or other professional programs, graduate school, or directly enter the workforce. Graduate students continue for their Ph.D. or other professional degrees, or find employment in industry, NGOs, or governmental agencies. We have become a gateway for pre-professional students to reach their aspiration in fields such as medicine, veterinary science, dentistry, and physical therapy. Our department has a diverse array of faculty to satisfy the needs of a wide range of student interests; we provide a friendly, personal touch to the intellectual growth of our undergraduate and graduate students.
Please browse through our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and webpages for more information,
and contact us with any questions. We look forward to you joining us in the Biology
Department at WKU!
Michael Smith PhD
WKU Biology alumnus Elvin Irihamye was chosen as a 2022 Rhodes Scholar. Elvin is currently a senior neuroscience major at Indiana University and plans on pursuing a Master of Science in Applied Digital Health Leadership at Oxford University before going on to medical school. Elvin started his academic career as a part of the Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science at Western Kentucky University, where he performed research in the neurobiology lab of Dr. Michael Smith. His research examined potential therapeutics for auditory-related chemotherapy side effects, which led to three scientific papers of which he is a co-author (see references below). Elvin also supports many social causes. For example, he was vital to the development of two non-profit organizations- Create Circles, which provides unique programming for elderly adults through volunteers, and the Eckford Mentorship Program that he co-founded, which provides black professional mentors to black undergraduate students to strengthen the pipeline of diverse talent into industry, academia, and public service.
Monroe, J.D., Moolani, S.A., Irihamye, E.N., Lett, K.E., Hebert, M.D., Gibert, Y., Smith, M.E. 2021. Cisplatin and phenanthriplatin modulate long-noncoding RNA expression in A549 and IMR90 cells revealing regulation of microRNAs, Wnt/β-catenin and TGF-β signaling. Scientific Reports 11: 10408.
Monroe, J.D., Moolani, S.A., Irihamye, E.N., Speed, J.S., Gibert, Y., Smith, M.E. 2020. RNA-Seq analysis of cisplatin and the monofunctional platinum (II) complex, phenanthriplatin, in A549 non-small cell lung cancer and IMR90 lung fibroblast cell lines. Cells 9:2637.
Monroe, J.D., Moolani, S.A., Irihamye, E.N., Johnston, A.M., Smith, M.E. 2020. Effects of L-serine against cisplatin-mediated reactive oxygen species generation in zebrafish vestibular tissue culture and HEI-OC1 auditory hybridoma cells. Neurotoxicity Research.