Clubfest, but make it virtual

Maybe you didn’t participate in the university’s virtual Clubfest last month – it doesn’t matter! Time has no meaning! It’s not too late to join an ISU club or organization, and easy for you because Honors students run a lot of them. Here are some organizations populated with Honors students and the info you need to get involved with them.


Ames Community and Youth (ACYC)
Honors student you can name drop: Brier Klossing
We are a local volunteer organization providing assistance and opportunities for today’s less fortunate within the Ames and surrounding areas. Anyone who is interested in volunteering and giving back to their community should join!

  • We are on Instagram and Facebook; follow us @amescyc 
  • Anyone who is interested can contact our email,, for any information about the club.
From our tie blanket event where we made tie blankets for Project Linus.


Beta Sigma Psi Fraternity
Honors student you can name drop: Jared Greiner
Beta Sig is a Christian fraternity that prides itself on keeping a balance between both social and scholastic values, while also being one of the best houses in both regards. We had the highest fraternity GPA last spring, a 3.76 average, beating Farmhouse by 0.01. The core values of Beta Sigma Psi are our social, scholastic, and spiritual aspects. While we have sadly ended our fall recruitment, we would still love to get to know guys to eventually recruit them in the spring and would be happy to see as many guys as we can! Guys seeking brotherhood and wanting to make lifelong relationships with other members of Beta Sig are more than welcome. Our members are people that appreciate the values we have and are willing to help their brothers out. Whether that be with academics, spiritual (everyone’s in a different place), or just everyday life.

  • Instagram: @betasigmapsiisu
  • Students can get in touch with our recruitment chairs at (319) 210 8747 or (Aiden Meyer) and (515) 351 2219 or (Jarret Loeske).


Culinary Science Club
Honors student you can name drop: Sara Siebrecht
Culinary Science Club is a place for people who love food. Whether you’re on track for a career in the food industry or not, CSC is a great place to explore both the science and the art of food, network with people who do that professionally, and make friends who will eventually. A typical meeting for us includes snacks, relationship-building, and opportunities for outreach in our community. Culinary Science Club: Deliciously Scientific! This club was built for Culinary Food Science and Food Science students, but we welcome anyone! We have members in majors ranging from dietetics to engineering to horticulture, and we’d love to have you too.

  • Insta: @iowastate_culinaryscienceclub
  • Facebook: ISU Culinary Science Club (requires approval to join)
  • We’re using the Google Form that is linked in the QR code to collect the information of interested students. After you fill out the form, you’ll be added to our email list and one of our exec members will be contacting you soon! Any questions about club? Email me (
Sign up here!
Friendsgiving-themed meeting, Fall 2019


Cyclone Rocketry
Honors student you can name drop: Tom Sun
We are Iowa State University’s High Power Rocketry (HPR) club. Here at CyRoc, we focus on giving our members hands-on experience designing and manufacturing HPRs, Every year, we compete in the Space Port America Cup against teams across the globe. We constantly are looking for motivated rocket goofs who want to learn more about what it takes to build an HPR. Here at CyRoc, the sky is not the limit, and we are no strangers to pushing the boundaries of what undergraduates can accomplish! Anyone interesting in learning and working with High Power Rocketry and want to meet other rocket goofs should join. No prior experience required!


Dairy Science Club at Iowa State University
Honors student you can name drop: Grace Jakes
Do you love ice cream? Pretty fond of cheese pizza? Never found a cow you didn’t like? Well then the Dairy Science Club is for you! The Dairy Science Club at Iowa State is a medium-sized club focused on learning about dairy cows, dairy products, and serving the Ames community. Ice cream mixing, education events in schools, serving meals to those who need it in the community, making Christmas cookies for our favorite faculty–we pride ourselves on staying involved and giving back. No bovine experience necessary with this group. Anyone who likes cows, likes ice cream, milk, or any other dairy product, and people who are curious about farming and animals should join. Get in touch if you want to learn moooooore!


The Engineering Ambassador and Mentor Program (TEAM)
Honors student you can name drop: Matt Decker
TEAM members volunteer their time to organize campus tours and other events for potential students, visitors, and employers to showcase the College of Engineering and Iowa State University. Typically, members give in-person tours to visitors but this semester we will be focusing on virtual recruitment events. We also have implemented a mentor program to connect with other engineering students and gain awesome leadership experience. Any and all engineering students should join!


The Environmental Education Club
Honors student you can name drop: Emma Flemming  
The Environmental Education Club focuses on community outreach by planning nature-related programs to share, usually at the Ames Public Library or a local retirement home. This year, we will mainly be planning virtual educational events to ensure the safety of everyone involved. 
Our club consists of mostly animal ecology students but is open to any major. If you enjoy nature and teaching, this club is for you!

Pictured is a club member reading a book to some children at the library.


Iowa State Daily – Opinion Section, specifically
Honors student you can name drop: Peyton Hamel
At the Iowa State Daily, you will be able to elevate your voice on campus and in the Ames community by writing on topics of your choice as a columnist or by working on campus or social issues as a team on the Editorial Board. Several Honors students are loving writing for the Iowa State Daily, and I know you will too! The Iowa State Daily is open to anyone who wants to join! A unique perspective is vital: liberal, conservative, environmentalist, feminist, and your identity contributes. 


International Association of Students in Agriculture and Related Sciences (IAAS)
Honors student you can name drop: Allee Koestner
IAAS is an international organization of students interested in various topics relating to agriculture. Members of our club attend meetings every other Monday and attend social events such as a motivational day. We also send our members to many conferences and events in the United States such as the World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogue, UN Youth Assembly in New York City, and the Women in Food and Ag Network Conference. Members also hold offices and travel to events outside of the US such as directors meetings that change location each year. Our members are primarily those with majors within CALS, but we do have a few members in other colleges including the College of Engineering.

  • Instagram: @iaasisu
    Facebook: International Agriculture Club, IAAS at ISU
  • Email: send us an email at to get added to our email list and receive information about upcoming meetings 


Kappa Alpha Theta Sorority
Honors student you can name drop: Lily Harvison
Are you interested in getting more involved? In finding an organization that will push you to become better leaders, scholars, and women? If this sounds like you then Kappa Alpha Theta may be the organization for you! Kappa Alpha Theta is a women’s fraternity that is looking for more leading women to join their chapter and grow their sisterhood. Kappa Alpha Theta is devoted to service, scholarship, and leadership. This devotion is seen in the semesterly philanthropies that are held to support the Story County CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), days of service, and through a chapter average GPA of 3.59. Along with our devotion to scholarship and the community, we are a social chapter meaning that we participate in Homecoming festivities, Greek Week, and hold annual formals and semi-formals. If you are interested in hearing more about Kappa Alpha Theta, you can find us on:


Kappa Delta Sorority
Honors student you can name drop: Bekah Muta 
Kappa Delta is a sorority that is a part of the Panhellenic community. Our five values are confidence, academic excellence, philanthropy, sisterhood, and leadership. Our sorority is a close-knit group of women that support one another and push each other to achieve our goals. In addition to the sisterhood, we also participate in other Greek community events, and our philanthropies are Girl Scouts, Prevent Child Abuse America (PCAA), and Prevent Child Abuse Iowa (PCAI). A typical member who joins is a woman that shares our values of confidence, academic excellence, philanthropy, sisterhood, and leadership and generally is looking to find lifetime connections and friendships. 

  • Instagram: @iowastatekappadelta
  • In order to get in touch with us to learn more, contact Sidney Kout at (319) 530-2534


Orthodox Christian Fellowship
Honors student you can name drop: Taras Butrie
We are the Orthodox Christian Fellowship, a community of students here at Iowa State who are either Orthodox Christians, are looking to become Orthodox, or are wanting to learn more about the Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church is the oldest form of Christianity in existence, tracing back to the New Testament. Our meetings are typically on a bi-weekly basis, and will be online for this academic year. More information about our meetings will come out once we are able to finalize a time that works best for all of our current and incoming members.


Robotics Club
Honors student you can name drop: Shelby Murray
The purpose of the Robotics Club at Iowa State University is to provide students the extracurricular opportunity to learn about, build, and compete with robotics, in robotics competitions, groups, and independently. Our current projects include a 30-lb combat robot that competes against other bots and a lower-body exoskeleton suit to help the wearer carry more weight and maneuver through an obstacle course efficiently. For those new to robotics or wanting to expand their knowledge, last semester we offered HAL: Hang-out And Learn. This was an opportunity to learn more about fields related to robotics and hone your skills. 3D-modeling and coding were both covered last year. Typical members are primarily from the College of Engineering, but we’re open to anyone! Our current Treasurer is majoring in Accounting, for example. If you have an interest in robotics, you’re welcome to join.


SAE International – Clean Snowmobile Challenge
Honors student you can name drop: Kate Lyon
The goal of the Clean Snowmobile team is to modify a standard snowmobile to be more environmentally friendly. This includes decreasing the noise and emissions of the vehicle, while also maintaining or improving fuel efficiency and the enjoyment of the ride. We do everything from design new components, fabricate prototypes, and install and validate final designs. In addition, we work with local organizations to ensure members have the opportunity to ride snowmobiles. Our season culminates with a week-long competition in March where we present our modified vehicle to a panel of judges, justify our innovations, and run the snowmobile through a variety of tests to determine which university developed the best solution. We welcome members of every major! Although at first glance it may seem like we are an engineering-focused organization, we have opportunities for students of all backgrounds to get involved. Examples include design of websites and the snowmobile’s appearance, business and management of the organization, communications between other organizations and local companies, and much more.

  • Facebook: @isucsc
  • Instagram: @isucleansnowmobile
  • You can email Kate Lyon ( or interact with us on social media!


Student Admissions Representatives (STARS)
Honors student you can name drop: Megan Behrends
STARS (STudent Admissions RepresentativeS) is an exciting volunteer group that works with the Admissions Office. The group works to present a positive, realistic student view of Iowa State University to prospective students and parents through campus tours. The group’s members are a prime example of the diverse student body that attends Iowa State University. 
Our members are students who love Iowa State and want to share that love with visiting families. They are high energy, positive, and not afraid to speak in front of people.  We have student members from all six colleges who are involved in a variety of activities across campus.


Students Helping Our Peers (SHOP)
Honors student you can name drop: Drew Daly
SHOP is a student-run food pantry here on campus and it’s completely anonymous for visitors. We help to lower food insecurity on campus through running a food pantry, providing resources, and helping out in the community.Anyone can join! We have volunteers in every year and every college! Join if you are passionate about food security and helping your fellow classmates!

  • Instagram: @iowastateshop
  • Twitter: ISU_shop
  • Facebook: The S.H.O.P.

New volunteers can use and click on the join button to start volunteering! 

*Last* First Days as a Cyclone, 2020

We shared some FHP students’ reflections on their first weeks as Cyclone here. Our seniors have a lot of feelings too!  What is it like for them to start the end of their Cyclone careers during a pandemic?


I don’t think freshman me and senior me are even the same person. I’m nowhere close to where I thought I would end up when I began my first semester, realizing my passion lies in neuroscience, not astrophysics, but I’m definitely where I want to be now.
I remember standing outside the physics building on the very first day of classes in 2017 with a massive crowd of people trying to see the eclipse. I think I was late to my class, but in that class I met a group of people who I lovingly refer to as my “physics friends” (shoutout to John Mobley IV, Johnny Lawless, and Evan McKinney), and one of the most incredible experiences of my four years has been sticking together and seeing each other succeed as we all grew to become the scientists we hoped to be when we met.
Our senior year isn’t really the end yet so I’m not sure how to feel about it. Soon they’ll be getting their Ph.Ds in every subdiscipline of physics you can imagine, while I on the other hand decided that sounds quite miserable, and will be training to be a “doctor doctor” instead. I’ll miss my physics friends as we scatter across the world, but hopefully when we all meet up again our “Doctor” handshake won’t be so ironic anymore.
Michael Bunney, Physics and Genetics


My last first day of classes was definitely not what I expected, but I couldn’t be happier to be back in Ames to finish out my last year of college! My first day of college ever started in Lorch-Russell in Friley (the BEST honors house), and my last day started in my apartment with my friends I met there. As a freshman I was intimidated by how big the campus and community were, and now I can’t walk between classes without bumping into someone I know. My first week as a freshman, if you told me I would be applying to medical school my senior year, I wouldn’t have believed it. Iowa State has helped me grow so much as a person, and even though I’m excited to see where life after college takes me, it’s bittersweet to know that means saying goodbye to my second home.
Laura Knapp, Biology


Reflecting on my first week of classes at ISU, I remember how nervous and excited I was. I met most of my closest friends that week, developing relationships that have followed me for three years. Sometimes I forget how much I have developed, not just as an engineer or scientist but also as an adult. Pursuing college, internships, study abroad, and other programs have taught me there is no greater character-building exercise than living on your own. I cannot wait for what my future entails, and what the remaining of these last two semesters at ISU have to offer me!
David Reynolds, Mechanical Engineering


It definitely has not been a normal start of a semester, as far as not heading to campus everyday, not going to semester kick-offs for clubs, not being able to socialize with friends and classmates, and having all my classes online, but I can also say that I still have that eager and excited feeling to be back to Ames and starting my last semester as a Cyclone. I honestly can’t believe my senior year is here, so it’s crazy to think back to my first day of freshman year. I remember having a math class at 8am on that Monday morning, but yet I was super excited because it was the beginning of such a huge journey and I was excited to see what college was going to be like at Iowa State. This last semester is definitely bittersweet at Iowa State because I have absolutely LOVED my time here and I am so grateful that I chose a place that I would be sad about leaving. I am going to miss the community of people, my friends, the friendly people on campus, my “home away from home,” and the awesome experiences from clubs, athletic events, intramurals, and everything else Iowa State provided for the students. I always felt welcomed and valued here and would not have wanted to go anywhere else. Now bring on the new and final semester!
Biz Cuvelier, Elementary Education


When I think about how I pictured my last “first day” as a Cyclone, I never imagined I would be sitting at my apartment kitchen table scrolling through Canvas during a global pandemic.  As a senior who only has 19 credits left to fulfill before qualifying to graduate, I hope that my initial plan to stretch out my time at ISU into four, full years will bear fruition and allow some sort of normalcy by the end.  However, normalcy in itself has changed altogether these past six months.  With only 12 credits ranging over three classes, all online, this semester is looking to be different in many ways.  I’ve never taken below 15 credits or all online courses, so I have already had to adjust my time management to become more adaptable to the current situation.  This adjustment in time management feels oddly similar to when I first became a student at ISU with wide open eyes and a yearning to do everything physically possible to make my time at Iowa State worth it.  Especially since I spent the past six months living in my childhood home, mooching off of my parents.  The beginning of this semester and the beginning of my very first semester have a similar feel as there is so much unknown ahead in the future.  However, I know that when I look back at my college experience, I will be so thankful for the way ISU shaped me as an individual who can adjust and preserve through even the most challenging times.  Here’s to one last final, hoo-rah before entering the real world.
Megan Behrends, Agriculture and Life Sciences Education


First weeks as a freshman:

Here’s the last first week:

This is the most bittersweet last semester possible. I think a lot of Fall 2020 grads will agree. My first day of class as a freshman was full of labs, meeting people, new classes, and figuring out buses. This year it was mostly sitting at my desk at home, talking to my pets, and taking a nap. Luckily, I already know quite a few people around Ames that are all available to Facetime all day. It’s such a bittersweet time to be leaving all the people I’ve grown to love because goodbyes aren’t quite as close as any of us would like. 😦 The people are by far what I will miss most about Iowa State. Friends, faculty, professors, strangers doing weird things and yelling on campus. They have all become my home. I feel for the freshman who have a wacky start to their college career, but have a lot of hope they will end their college careers close to all the people going through it with them!
Emma Flemming, Environmental Science and International Studies


Photo credit: Grant Barton Photography //

I have mixed emotions on finishing college soon. On the one hand, I want this year to be over because of how weird everything is and how ready I am for the next stage (#malannagetsmarried2021) but on the other hand, I know there is no experience like undergrad ever again. I actually do remember my very first class freshman year! I had Biological Anthropology (ANTHR202) in the Food Science Building at 9 am. Initially I felt pretty nervous until we started on the content and I realized I already knew some of the beginning info from high school biology classes! That helped put me at ease. It feels like that class was just last week, and yet here we are, four years later. The days are long but the years fly by. As a marching band member, I had a lot of self reflection this past Saturday during our first game. A lot of the same feelings arose as I realized just how far I’ve come. It’s exciting and I am proud of the woman I’ve become, but it is a little bittersweet to know there will never be a time in my life again when all of my best friends live within walking distance and when we can get up to some ridiculous shenanigans at the drop of a hat. Whether it be cuddling on a giant floof with my #twistedsisters watching vine compilations, scootering around campus after midnight to stop on the band field and lay down to look at stars like a cliche coming of age movie, or leaving some particular houses with my best friends to go get superdogs on Welch, these are all the things I will carry with me forever. Miss Rona may have screwed up a lot of things about this year, but already we’re finding ways around her to make senior year count just as much as the others. I’m going to miss Iowa State when I leave. But I’m more thankful for the time I did have.
Alanna Maxwell, Kinesiology


My last first week of classes at ISU made me realize that I will miss all of the experiences I have had in college – I have made many friends, have learned so much, and have gotten to see and do some awesome things. The Honors program really helped set me on the right track during my freshman year; I didn’t know anyone (and was so nervous walking to my first class that I was almost shaking) but after settling in with my FHP group and co-leaders, I knew that college was going to be a great time. Knowing that this is my last year at Iowa State is bittersweet, but I am ready for the future – and if the next first is as fun as these have been, I am ready for whatever comes next.
John Davis, Biology


Picture from my “last” first day


My apartment where I spend almost ALL of my time senior year! I barely remember being in my dorm freshman year because I was always out at work, class, or clubs!

With everything going on in the world, I don’t think that it has hit me that this is my last year at ISU yet! I remember Freshman year I had a full schedule booked out to the minute, maximizing every moment and meeting as many new friends as possible. Freshman Maddie did great, because as a Senior with a quite empty, online schedule, I feel so content with my circle of friends and activities that I have accumulated over the last three years. I have changed so much as a person, and it is crazy to reflect on how different I was on my first day of college to my last first day! Freshman Maddie was an open option major with no clear path or close friends, and I am so thankful to have developed clear career and academic goals, defined majors, and surrounded myself with such a wonderful group of friends and mentors. Okay it has hit me now that it’s my last year… I am not ready to leave this beautiful campus!!
Maddie Huinker, Communication Studies and Environmental Science


This first week has been pretty alright! My roommates and I (who I met through my dormitory honors community) are all moved-in again for our second year together. While we’re getting ahead of our classes, we’ve also been enjoying the time between our jobs ending and school picking up. We’ve gotten into some student-discount golf, frisbee golf, board games (emphasis on Catan and it’s expansions), and the occasional movie.
Zach Hickey, Aerospace Engineering


My last first day was a lot different, though for more reasons than just the school’s COVID-19 regulations. My first-ever freshman class was an 8 a.m., the Greenlee school’s introduction to journalism and mass communications class. I remember being nervous in the class, even though it was pretty low stakes, and I also remember being so determined to be a journalist at the end of college. Whether I was a television, newspaper, or radio journalist, it didn’t matter. This year, my first senior class was at 10 a.m., held on WebEx on my bed while I ate strawberries and cheese. It was media law, a subject that was still interesting to me even though I no longer want to be a journalist. I’ve now changed to double major in journalism and criminal justice. I have taken an interest in inmate rehabilitation & youth intervention (though I still have no definitive plan for after college).  However, the most significant and most upsetting change came before the first day of school, on move-in day. Every time an Ostendorf moves into Iowa State University, we go out to eat at The Mandarin. However, earlier this year, the Mandarin was closed and demolished, so instead we ate at the HyVee Chinese buffet, which was the same in spirit but not in experience. If I miss anything from my freshman year, it is the Mandarin.
Madelyn Ostendorf, Journalism and Mass Communications and Criminal Justice


The first class I sat down in as a first-year honor student was Calculus II. I didn’t know what to expect. Quite frankly, when I sat down in my first few classes of this new semester, I still didn’t know what to expect! With most of my classes online and in drastically different formats, I feel like I’m a new student all over again. One thing that has been very apparent over the past few days of this blazing hot week has been the increase in back sweat when I sit down for class. Today I sat near the front of my lecture hall to learn about skeletal anatomy, and I’m sure the whole crowd behind me could see all of my wonderful blotches of sweat through my light gray shirt! Had I been a first-year student, I may have been nervous (rightfully so). But now that I’ve been through 3 years of undergrad classes and the rollercoaster of life since then, I didn’t care a bit. As a kinesiology major, I gloried in my body’s cooling mechanism and got ready to nerd out about our skeletons. Point of the story: Be you and be proud of it! (Classic cliché intended). Also, I’m obsessed with sleep now, so I wear blue light blocking glasses at night. #BlueLightCan’tGetMe
Lucas Jurasek, Kinesiology


COVID obviously has a large impact on my “last first day” of classes at Iowa State compared to my freshman year. But non-COVID talk, my first day of classes senior year was wildly different than my first day freshman year. I still remember trekking across campus to the Horticulture building. “What does Horticulture even mean?” my freshman mind wondered (I still really couldn’t tell you to be honest.) As I sat down in my first day of classes, I was exposed to lectures of over 200 students compared to lectures of no more than 30 students in high school. The wonder and awe of college life was in full-effect as I admired how big everything was, the lectures, the campus, everything.
Four years later, I rolled out of bed and walked to campus, soaking up the beauty of central campus. This time around, I know exactly what building I need to walk to and I know the fastest route there. This place has become my home. I have found my friends, my career passions, and a greater understanding of the word community. That wide-eyed, young freshman is gone, and what I have transformed into is a young man who learned the importance of time-management, how to be self-disciplined, and that four years goes by very fast, so never take any moment for granted.
Jack Wilgenbusch, Marketing


If you would have told me 4 years ago that my future held attending 30+ live concerts, interning for 16 months doing software development work, and traveling across the world to visit multiple countries, I would have called you crazy. All these things have come true along with many other great memories of being a Cyclone. As a freshman, my first day was filled with anxiety about making it to class on time and finding the right building, even though I had walked to all of them days before. But that first day was also the day that I met my best friend and learned that college wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be – people are there to help you succeed.  As I started my last first day, I vowed that even though all my classes are online and I can’t be at ISU, that I would make the most of it and leave a legacy behind me. I look forward to graduating because I know that ISU has prepared me for what comes afterwards, but I will also be sad to close this chapter of my life. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned since freshman year as a Cyclone is that, to quote Ellie from ‘Up’, “Adventure is out there!” you just have to walk outside to begin.
Jamie Sampson, Software Engineering and Psychology


I very distinctly remember my first class on my first day of freshman year – I had an 8am chemistry lecture in Gilman 1002, and I remember being terrified for my *adventure* to begin. I did what everyone pre-college told me to do and sat in the front row, had pre-ordered all my textbooks for every class, and had color-coded sections of my planner for each of my classes. These days, I am still “that girl” but it looks a little different. My major is really small and hands-on, so there isn’t much sitting to do anymore, and some of my textbooks are cookbooks! My planner is still broken down by the half-hour, but is no longer color-coded. My last first week went rather uneventfully. I had only one class each day, and spent the rest of the time at work.
Something I could not have predicted is that my college summers would take me to live in two different states for internships, as well as one completely virtual internship! Also, three years ago I did not drink coffee. Now, I am more than just a consumer of it; some might call me a coffee snob.
Some things haven’t changed though. The first three or four weeks of fall semester still catch me off guard by darn hot and sweaty I can get on the way to class. Campus, though quieter this year, is still alive and gorgeous. I’m trying not to get prematurely nostalgic about it all, but I’m sure going to miss it when I’m gone. I think I ~chose my adventure~ well.
BRB crying,
Sara Siebrecht, Culinary Food Science


Life (and college for that matter) is so much better when you choose to do it with people you love!

I remember walking onto campus at Iowa State University as a freshman and doing all of the stereotypical things like pretending to check my phone but really frantically searching for the map to tell me where my class was, trying to act like I knew what I was doing when I really had no clue, and other “freshman” things like that.  I remember the nerves of hearing the assignments and projects for the upcoming semester, and then also the excitement of the football games, new friendships, and the beautiful campus.  As I finish my “last first day” at Iowa State, I think of all that has changed.  How I now have to wear a face mask and practice proper social distancing procedures between classes, and how interesting it is to be mostly online for my coursework.  I think the part I will miss most about my time at Iowa State University is the sense of community and the beauty of interaction between students and faculty all trying to make the world a better place.  Whether we are in a global pandemic or not, Iowa State University will always have a special place in my memory.  Current freshman: just for a minute!  Shut your textbooks, close your eyes, and take a deep breath.  It’s all going to be okay, and any struggles or challenges you are facing now will only make you better.
Luke Sloterdyk, Global Resource Systems and Environmental Science


With the proverbial finish line of my undergraduate career within sight, it is incredible to look back on how far we as students have come. Following thousands of pages of textbook material and hundreds of cups of espresso, my final first day of class felt like a continuation of everything I had learned up to that point. Starting my college experience at ISU off, the very first class I had was PHYS 241H which  — as fate would have it — started at the exact same time as the August 21, 2017 solar eclipse. As someone in the Physics & Astronomy Department, I remember distinctly standing outside the south entrance of Physics Hall with a majority of my classmates (who would become my future friends) watching through filtered glasses as the moon partially covered the sun. Absolutely an amazing first day!
Although my final first day of college at ISU looked much different — starting on Webex with a dual-listed math course at 10 AM, I still saw the same familiar faces I’ve come to appreciate over the last three years. While I am extremely excited to graduate and embark on a professional program in academia, my adventure at Iowa State University will forever remain in my mind as one of the most exciting and rewarding times of my life!
John Mobley IV, Physics and Math


Is it bittersweet to be nearly finished?
It is bittersweet to come back to classes knowing that it will be my last year as a cyclone! As I look back on my last three years at Iowa State, I cannot help but to be grateful for all the experiences I got, opportunities I took, and people I have met. It’s sad to know that next year I won’t be on campus but I know Iowa State has prepared me for my future in the best way possible.
How was your “last first day” of class different from your first day back when you were a freshman (2020 should provide A LOT to say on that point)?
My last first day was different than any first day of school I ever had! Obviously COVID-19 had a large part in that with wearing face masks at all times and social distancing, but my excitement to be back on campus was unmatched. After not being in a lecture hall, lab room, or the library for 5 months, it was very exciting to get back to somewhat “normal” once again. When I walked to my first class as a Senior I was just reminded of all the memories I have made with my time here. College does fly by. One point you’re a Freshman in an Open Option learning community, then the next minute you’re a Senior applying for grad school!
My first day of Freshman was a little intimidating. I refused to use the bus because I was scared I would get lost even though I already had no idea where I was going in the first place. I walked around aimlessly and wondered when an Open Option student would ever find out what their future held. I was ready for my next four years, but I had no clue where they would take me.
Do you remember the first class you ever went to?
My first class I ever went to was Math 165 (Calculus) in Carver. I think I got to my class about 30 minutes early (yikes) because I was so nervous I would get lost or be late! I remember we went over the syllabus for about 5 minutes then immediately jumped into class material which I was not completely prepared for. Needless to say, this was a common trend during my time at Iowa State!
How have your “first weeks” changed over the years? 
I feel like as time went on my first weeks have started to go slightly smoother! I like to think that I am more organized and prepared for the semester, but who knows how accurate that is! As a Freshman, I was 20 minutes early to every class and was STRESSED out with my 100 level intro classes. I wasn’t sure if I would ever see the light at the end of the tunnel. As a Senior, I definitely like to push the clock which has caused me to be late to class a handful of times. I’m still stressed, but it is a little more justifiable with taking more upper level classes!
What are you going to miss about Iowa State?
Honestly, what am I not going to miss about this place. I loved every opportunity and person that I was around during my undergraduate time. Iowa State has given me countless memories and I would not change them for the world. I think if I had to single one thing out it would be the people. From professors, to my friends, to my peers in my classes, everyone always had a passion for what they were doing and for Iowa State. I’m sad to say this is my last year, but I can’t wait to see what it brings!
Allison Buckert, Kinesiology


My “last first day” hit me with a wave of nostalgia. I still remember my first day of class Freshman year. I rolled out of an uncomfortable bunk bed, scarfed down a plate of eggs at Seasons, and sprinted over to Jischke to find myself an hour too early. Coincidentally, my first college course was Honors 121 and I still remember the legendary duo of Vince Valeriano and Erik Francois greeting me as I entered the room. I felt wholly unprepared to be an Iowa State student and carried such a closed-mindset back then that my first thought of Honors 121 went something like this – “What have I gotten myself into? Why am I here? What am I doing?” I had no plans to get involved and was certain I’d walk out of college the same as I had entered. Thank you Iowa State for knocking that attitude out of me.
Fast forward to Senior year and I’m walking into the Honors building for work, voluntarily entering Jischke to kickstart my final year. Truthfully, Honors has become my home away from home and is the number one reason I love Iowa State… and the only emotion I’ve been feeling is gratitude. I’m beyond grateful for my Iowa State experience and I’m beyond grateful for the memories – even the difficult times! I’m definitely a stickler for routine and living through a pandemic certainly doesn’t cater to that; still, as I walk campus I can only think about how fortunate I am to be here. How lucky I am to get this final year and the opportunity to make more ISU memories. I love it here. I love the people, I love the community, and I love the opportunities to grow. Freshman year, I wondered if I’d chosen the right place; Senior year, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Yeah, this semester – the semester before I potentially student teach – is going to be a whirlwind. I have this strange calm, like, I know I’m going to graduate, I know I’ve challenged myself, and I know I’ve met some of the most amazing people ever. Now, I’m just trying to enjoy the ride. If you’re a new student, try every opportunity presented to you! It only takes one moment to change your worldview, your life, for the better! I know when I think back on Iowa State, on graduation day, all I’ll feel is that same gratitude. I’m sure it will be bittersweet, but gratitude, nonetheless.
Aaron Leppert, Chemistry


I don’t think that anyone would argue when I say that this year is probably easier than most for me to contrast my freshman and senior year. Extraordinary events aside, however, I can draw upon how much I’ve grown as a person at Iowa State and the people who helped that happen. I remember my first day in Ames– my parents dropped me off and I was this weird mixed up combination of excited and TERRIFIED. I didn’t know anyone on my dorm floor or in my classes, I was notoriously really terrible with reading maps, and I didn’t put it together that room numbers corresponded to floor levels until at least halfway through my first semester. Finding my way around campus was admittedly difficult for longer than I’d like to say, but making friends came pretty easily.
My favorite thing about college has easily been the relationships that I have formed. The people who are my very best friends today I would have never met without communal bathrooms, 101 classes, or deciding to take the plunge and apply to be an honors leader. I’m a firm believer that nothing forms better bonds than going through struggles with people–and boy, does college offer up a lot of opportunities for that.
Senior year looks a lot different than freshman year for many, many, reasons. My favorite difference is how much my confidence has grown academically and otherwise– and cat snuggles that I’m able to get during class from the comfort of my bed, that’s a nice perk. I would have never been able to get through these last four years without the people that I hold closest, and I know that they will continue to support me through all of life’s trials and tribulations. When it comes down to it, I have Iowa State to thank for that. Whether it’s logging on to Webex lectures or getting lost trying to hunt down a room number, I will always be grateful for the years I’ve had here.
Leah Johnson, Agricultural Biochemistry

First Days as a Cyclone (2020)

We asked First-Year Honors Program students to tell us a little about their first official week as Iowa State students…here’s what they said! Here’s what they said in 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014 and 2013, too.


My first week at Iowa State has been amazing so far. I have gotten the opportunity to meet so many new people during my in-person classes. Whether it’s going to lunch, doing homework, or playing ultimate frisbee, I have found friends who are willing to do all of those things with me. This first week of school has definitely been different than most, but meeting new people and learning new content has made it extremely enjoyable.

Elena Knops, K1, Chemical Engineering


*Anecdote of the day*
My first week of school was like a eating a pineapple, you start eating it because it tastes good but then you realize you have to get the stringy stuff out of your teeth.

Ahillan Kumar, C1, Design Undeclared


I had a great time at the FHP kickoff! It was exciting to plan our theme for the semester, meet my full section, and the Kona ice was delicious- I tried the Butterbeer flavoring and would 10/10 recommend.
My first day at ISU was not how I predicted it would be when I was a young child looking forward to college. I started my day with a 6:30am cycle fit class at State Gym. My first actual class was MUSIC 102 and it was all online and I live streamed in. The only other class I had was HON 121 where we did an escape room which was very fun. Starting the year with an honors class made me really happy though!
I love hammocking so far. One time I studied outside of Parks Library which was fun. But, most of my course work has been done in my dorm, so I think my dorm takes the top of the list. PLUS my dorm has A/C so it’s even better.
Classes are definitely strange, but also I have no personal frame of reference for what “normal” college is like. I’m just trying to make the most of it despite not being able to see the lower half of people’s faces and being 6 feet apart. I wish I had more in person classes, but I’m very quickly enhancing my skills in self accountability and making sure I’m getting my work done, especially since so many classes are online.

Betsy Marlow, B3, Kinesiology


Although most of my classes are online, I’ve really enjoyed my first week as a student at ISU. There are so many ways to get involved and meet people, and it seems that there’s always something for somebody. I couldn’t imagine going anywhere else!
Kay Mundy, N1, Animal Science


The honors kickoff was a great experience to meet new people. I got to meet my leaders in person and I already knew our class was going to be fun and such a good learning experience. I met all the people in my section too and made a great friend just one dorm over who had the same major and classes. Everyone in the honors program is so unique and has been so fun to meet. I have been spending my free time exploring around campus because it is truly beautiful here. My favorite spot so far is Howe because I love all the cool items they have displayed, but I am biased as an aerospace engineer. It is weird having to wear a mask everywhere on campus, but that still has not stopped me from socializing and making tons of new friends. My dorm building is probably my second favorite spot to hang out because I have met some really great friends that I know will be a part of my future. I cannot wait to see what the rest of the school year has in store.

Katelyn Wolters, B1, Aerospace Engineering


My first week in Ames has been super fun! Of course, it was also a bit stressful. I started out my week on a high note, walking in 5 minutes late to my first class, HON 321, and missing introductions. Fortunately, the professor and my classmates were super understanding. My classes were pretty tough off the bat (especially the online ones), but I have started to get a hang of things with the help of my new best friend, Google Calendar. After a long week of engineering classes, it was nice to have a break at my First Year Honors seminar even if my team got destroyed in our game of campus Pictionary. It’s been a great first week and I am excited to enjoy the rest of this semester in and out of FHP!

Matt Butler; K2; Undecided Engineering


My first week as an Iowa State Student was certainly hectic; I’ve already had two late night design sessions and there have only been two assignments. My classes all seem interesting, but I’m especially excited for the community and opportunities there will be through honors. I do feel like I’m starting to get the hang of campus, but for right now my favorite place is, without a doubt, anywhere with air conditioning.
Logan Conley, B2, Pre-Architecture


I had a great first week! I feel like I really lucked out with the floor I got. Everyone is super friendly and I have a good group of people to hang with when I am done with school work. I have also had a great time in the classroom (or on the computer) all of my teachers have shown great care towards us students. Even with COVID going on I have been able to attend and meet a lot of new people through DIS and the FHP kickoff.

Daniel Ho, F1, Mechanical Engineering


My first week at ISU was filled with lots of adventures, from getting cookies in Campustown to driving my remote-control R2-D2 down a hallway! I have made some new friends to play cards and walk around our beautiful campus with. I even got to try ice cream at the ISU Creamery in the Food Sciences Building on the first day it was open since 50 years ago! My favorite study spot on campus is definitely the Launch Pad room at the Student Innovation Center. It is on the fourth floor and has lots of windows that provide a great view of the engineering buildings nearby! While I still have yet to see an albino squirrel, my first week at ISU was a success! Stay safe everyone!

Sarah Stewart, G1, Mechanical Engineering


First week was good! I’m a little exhausted though after not being in the swing of things since March! I have met so many amazing people on my Honors floor in Martin and they have become some of my best friends already!
My roommate and I got a fish on Wednesday and named him Bando, as in the Spanish word abandando, as in abandoned. We may or may not have gotten deserted by CyRide due to our new friend and ended up having to wait 30 minutes for the next one and snuck him on!
It’s been fun and can’t wait for (hopefully) many more!!

Megan Mueller, B3, Microbiology


Honors Summer Snapshots: Rachael

And with that, summer 2020 is over! Ever wonder what Honors students do during the summer? Honors Ambassadors and students will be taking you into their 2020 summer routines via photos, and we end this year with Rachael Brady. When she wasn’t studying, Rachael (senior in Biology) spent her summer making both latte and agar art:

Hello current, former, and future Honors students! My name is Rachael Brady and I am a senior majoring in Biology with a minor in Emerging Global Diseases. Welcome to my summer of MCAT prep, attempted research from home, and a refreshing amount of time spent in national parks.

The biggest life event of this summer has been taking the MCAT and applying to medical school. My planned test date ended up being pushed back about a month because the pandemic has completely upended scheduling. But on the bright side, I had more time to study and I am very happy with my score. Next up: secondary applications over the next month or two.

Between studying for the MCAT, medical school applications, and my online Evolution class, much of my summer has been spent hitting the books–which I could not have done without my beloved espresso machine. One perk of staying at home is the opportunity to improve my latte art skills. If medical school doesn’t work out, I may pursue a career as a full-time barista.

Note the caffeine molecule on the mug. A great gift from a fellow Honors student.

When I haven’t been studying or working on homework, I have been getting some research-from-home done where I can. This is my third summer working in in Dr. Greg Phillips’ microbiology lab at VMRI. As you can imagine it’s hard to do wet lab work from home, but one of my projects lately has been working on curriculum development. Originally, the plan for this July was for me to travel to Baltimore to lead a 2-week summer research module for high school students with JSTI (Joint Science and Technology Institute).  I would have gotten to lead the labs with curriculum largely of my own design! Although I was very disappointed when it had to be canceled this year, the program has been postponed to Summer 2021 and I will have the opportunity to go next year instead.

I’ve had a lot of fun working on curriculum development in preparation for next year, and also as my Honors capstone project. I absolutely love teaching, and while lesson planning is something I’m not used to doing myself, I have really enjoyed it. It provides me with a lot of fantastic collaboration opportunities and I am learning a lot! I enjoy facing the challenges of adapting college-level curriculum to the level of an average high schooler, who may have never taken a biology class before or maybe has no interest in biology. My goal is to change that! My philosophy: Get them to show up for the fun colors, get them to stay for the fun biology.



Some of the chromogenic proteins we’ve developed in our lab, and some agar art by me!

Most of my summer has been spent at my Ames apartment, but I’ve had a couple breaks with a change of scenery. I traveled to Glacier National Park for a camping trip with some friends of mine, and spent a few days in Colorado too. I got to do some hiking, spent a lot of time outdoors, and saw some great views that we aren’t used to here in Iowa. I am so glad there are places like national parks where you can get away from regular life, but still easily social distance and stay safe.

View of Glacier National Park from the top of Ousel Peak. The steepest, densest, buggiest hike I’ve ever done, but the view was well worth it.


Top of Horsetooth Mountain. You can see Rocky Mountain National Park from one side, and the city of Fort Collins from the other.

It’s been a very weird summer that was unexpected in a lot of ways, but it shaped up to still be a pretty good one. I’m excited to be back to campus! Thanks for following along!

Honors Summer Snapshots: Taras

Ever wonder what Honors students do during the summer? Honors Ambassadors and students will be taking you into their 2020 summer routines via photos. Taras Butrie (sophomore in Aerospace Engineering) spent much of 2020 as an essential worker, both at his local Kroger and at his church:

Hey everyone! I’m Taras Butrie. I’m a sophomore in Aerospace Engineering (I know, so unique), and I’m an FHP Co-Leader this fall (Oh hey there L2!). This summer has definitely been a different one for myself, but it’s been fun also!

Photo Credit: WJRT-ABC 12

Like many students, I ended up having my summer plans turned upside down. Thus, I ended up getting a job at one of the local grocery stores in my hometown of Grand Blanc, Michigan. I helped to get the items for the online orders our store gets, and take them out to people’s cars when it’s time for them to pick up their orders. It had already been a popular option in my hometown due to a lot of people commuting to work in the normal times, but with the pandemic and Governor Whitmer’s stay-at-home order, the demand for the service exploded.


Screenshot from one of the discussions I was a part of…it’s public, so it’s fine if you’re interested

I also took some time to write an article and appear in a couple discussions for a non-partisan election news/analysis website called Elections Daily. It’s been a lot of fun being a part of this website, and has given me greater opportunity to think about my surroundings in a different light.

Recording my dad’s sermon to separately send out, I was learning the live-streaming ropes at this point

The pandemic has also meant I’ve had to really step up at church. Given my dad is the priest at my church, I’ve been a built-in helper for a lot of things for a few years now. With the pandemic, we’ve been closely following guidelines set forth by our bishop and his fellow bishops, which has meant I’ve been serving as a chanter and live-stream technician.


Quite possibly the greatest moment of my gaming career

Besides this and my now completed Physics 2 class, I’ve also spent some (okay, a lot) of time playing video games. Between winter break and coronacation, I’ve fully completed Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4, Lego Harry Potter: Years 5-7, Lego: The Hobbit, and Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga. As Emily Wilcox once said, “Engineers walk amongst us, and it’s TERRIFYING.”


PS, here’s a photo from when we were going to visit family and stayed overnight near Albany, NY

Honors Summer Snapshots: Grant

Ever wonder what Honors students do during the summer? Honors Ambassadors and students will be taking you into their 2020 summer routines via photos. Grant Schnoebelen (sophomore in Economics and Political Science) has a sharkdog, and that’s all you really need to know about how good his summer has been:

Hello Everyone!!

My name is Grant Schnoebelen, I am going into my sophomore year and this fall I will be a FHP group leader. My summer has been full of a variety of activities from hanging with my dog to improving my frisbee golf game to my job doing grounds work at the school district.

From 7:00am to 3:30pm Monday through Friday I am hard at work doing grounds work for the Cedar Rapids Community School District. After the storm recently this tree was damaged, and we were sent to saw it down. However, most the days involve going from school to school mowing the grass, and I’ll put my headphones in and listen to an audiobook or a podcast while trimming. It’s a little mind numbing but I am now essentially capable of teaching a masterclass on how to weed whack properly, so that’s something.


After getting back from work I like to get some exercise and also need to get my dog Lucky outside. Some days this means walking Lucky at the trail by my house, on a special day it may mean taking him to the lake (check out his super cool shark fin life jacket).


To have fun with my friends while social distancing I like to go disc golfing. I would never go so far to call us good, but we have improved this summer. I like to try new courses so luckily there is tons in my surrounding area.


Next fall I am fortunate enough to be able to do an internship in political science and as a result I have material I can work on over the summer. I don’t know if I would describe reading and annotating dense political science literature as exciting, but it has been a great way for me to challenge myself during a time when it may be easy to get lackadaisical.


Thanks for letting me share my typical summer day with you! I hope that everyone that reads this is doing well and hope to see you in Ames soon!

Honors Summer Snapshots: Jenna

Ever wonder what Honors students do during the summer? Honors Ambassadors and students will be taking you into their 2020 summer routines via photos. Jenna Runge (sophomore in Electrical Engineering) has been wearing her Cyclone Aide clothes all summer in preparation for being back on campus next week:

Hi all!

My name is Jenna Runge (she/her/hers), and I am a sophomore in Electrical Engineering. I’m also going to be an FHP Leader this fall and I couldn’t be more excited! Since coming home in March and throughout the summer I have tried to keep busy by taking up new hobbies, getting back into old ones, and by working as a Cyclone Aide helping incoming students!

This year I have been working as a Cyclone Aide for the office of New Student Programs! As a Cyclone Aide I have met and worked with a lot of amazing people and talked to a bunch of incoming students and their families!


As the first chunk of the summer we were still under quarantine, I spent a lot of time with my parents and older sister. On one outing, we went up the Mississippi River and bird watched for a few hours!


Spent some quality time outdoors in a hammock. I also went hiking on some of the local trails.


I also had more time to get back into art! This past school year I didn’t have the time or space to continue doing that in my spare time. One of my favorites was when I used old paint to make fluid paintings.


As an electrical engineering major I thought it would be fun to spend some of my summer brushing up on my programming skills and taking apart old electronics. This was an old tube TV that we took apart! This was probably my favorite, but I also took apart a broken toaster and a few other old gadgets from when I was a kid!


During the first month or two of Summer I spent a lot of time at home as things were still shut down. So, I had a lot of time to spend repotting plants and taking care of the plants I was not able to bring to my dorm with me (which was most of them as there are 36).


This was my workspace this summer as a Cyclone Aide! My position as a Cyclone Aide was very different this year from past years. Instead of working with incoming students at in person June Orientation, we have been working to connect with them virtually! The last few weeks we have been working with incoming students to answer their questions, and we have been hosting virtual small groups for them to get to know each other!


And here’s me getting perhaps a little too excited to get back to Ames and for Destination Iowa State!

Though this summer wasn’t even close to what I had planned, it gave me the chance to spend a lot of time with my family and get back into old hobbies! I bet everybody is just as excited to get back to Ames as I am and l’m glad I won’t have to wait much longer!

Honors Summer Snapshots: Katelyn

Ever wonder what Honors students do during the summer? Honors Ambassadors and students will be taking you into their 2020 summer routines via photos. Prepare yourself, because Katelyn Moje’s (senior in Mechanical Engineering) charcuterie-and-house-plant aesthetic is waaaaay better than yours:

Hi everyone! My name is Katelyn and I am a fourth year student in mechanical engineering. This summer and fall I have a semi-virtual co-op with Pella Corporation in Pella, IA. Pella Corporation is a window and door manufacturer with locations throughout the U.S. I have learned more about windows and doors than I would have ever imagined. The team I’m working on is setting up a new plant. Soon I will get to be on site at the new location setting up equipment and lines! In my free time, I have been relaxing, exploring Pella and surrounding areas, and spending time outdoors.

Here I am after my first day of work. I went on a bike ride to get some ice cream at De Scoop in Pella. On the way I stopped by the office. Since I’m working from home most of the time, I won’t be here too often.


Pella was settled by immigrants from the Netherlands and today they still celebrate their Dutch heritage in their historic downtown. All the buildings have the iconic Dutch architecture and there is so much good food! My favorite place to go is the bakery called Jaarsma. They have signature Dutch Letters and so many other tasty treats; I don’t know if I will be able to try them all!


When I moved to Pella, I did not realize I was within minutes of the largest lake in Iowa, Lake Red Rock. I have spent quite a bit of time here, exploring, hiking, disc golfing, and more. It has some of the best sunsets I have seen this summer.


One of my hobbies is taking care of my ~26 (and steadily growing) houseplant collection. Summer is the best time of year for this, all of my plants have been t h r i v i n g. I have had lots of time to experiment with propagating all kinds of plants. I have also been experimenting with terrariums, but this has been less successful. (P.S. if you want to get some plants, now is the perfect time since many nurseries have sales right now!)


I have also been experimenting with cooking during the summer. I have always enjoyed baking and definitely tried my hand with some Amish Friendship Bread during quarantine. But this summer I have done more cooking, my favorite recipe was garlic sesame noodles with sauteed vegetables. Although, I will always be a sucker for a good charcuterie board. A huge bonus is Pella has both a local butcher and cheese farm with delicious options!


I am just as excited as the next person to get back to Ames and see all of my friends, but in the meantime, keep wearing your masks 🙂


Honors Summer Snapshots: Leah

Ever wonder what Honors students do during the summer? Honors Ambassadors and students will be taking you into their 2020 summer routines via photos. Leah Johnson (senior in Biochemistry) has discovered an all-consuming passion for medicinal chemistry:

Hello everyone!

I’m Leah and in the fall, I’m going to be a senior in Biochemistry. To say that the summer of 2020 has been unique would be the world’s biggest understatement. However, I’m extremely grateful to say that I was lucky enough to have an internship that was able to be held in person. It’s been the most fun to finally work in a lab!

I’ve been working at Tjaden Biosciences, a company in southeast Iowa that specializes in making heavy label compounds for other companies to use in various ways. They do this by taking very basic compounds that contain at least one heavy label atom (carbon, hydrogen, or nitrogen, typically) and complete multistep organic syntheses to create the more complex heavy labeled compounds that have been requested.

The thing that I’ve enjoyed the most about my internship, besides learning like crazy, has been how no two days are exactly the same. My typical day at work looks something like this:

I get to the lab and I have to put on my PPE! Because we make heavy label compounds, one of the atoms we work with is Carbon 14– a radioactive isotope of carbon. There are extra precautions that have to be taken when working in a radioactive lab, like wearing foot coverings to prevent tracking radioactivity outside of designated areas.

I don’t personally work with radiolabel materials, because they are very expensive, and any mistakes can be very costly. My main role has been doing “cold chemistry” — opposed to “hot chemistry” which involves working with radioactivity. Because radiolabeled materials are so expensive it is important to be sure that methods of synthesizing products are successful before performing the chemistry with radiolabeled compounds. So, I have essentially been doing trial runs of planned projects with cold materials to check for yield rates, purity, and whether or not reactions between materials will even occur.

This is what a typical progression of a reaction looks like. I combine starting materials in a flask, which typically gets a balloon as a topper to account for any gas produced in the reaction.

In this reaction pictured I heated it up directly over a hot plate. Many reactions require energy input in order to make them go at all. Once it’s been determined that the reaction has completed, a typical next step is to concentrate the reaction mixture with a rotary evaporator (in the second picture). This places the reaction mixture under a vacuum and uses a very cold chamber to evaporate off, condense, and collect any volitile compounds in the reaction mixture. This process is the first step to isolating the desired product, as it is usually not volitile and will remain in the flask. The final step to isolating a desired product typically involves purifying the concentrated reaction mixture with a column–shown in the third picture. A sample is loaded on to the column and washed through with a gradient of solvent mixture. Different molecules will interact with the contents of the column and the solvents differently, which is what allows me to further isolate our target product. I know when the target product will come off of the column, and I’m able to collect pure product.

A really important part of working in any sort of scientific laboratory is keeping a very thorough lab notebook. It’s especially important for me because my coworkers will be trying to replicate the exact work that I did, just with radiolabeled materials. I have to make sure that they can follow any steps that I took in setting up my reactions, analyzing the progression of those reactions, and how I obtained pure product. I think that keeping an informative lab notebook has been one of the most valuble skills that I’ve gained this summer!

The coolest thing that I think I’ve encountered this summer has been the instrumentation I’ve been allowed to operate. The main analytical technology that I’ve used has been HPLC– high pressure or high performance liquid chromatography. I put samples of either compound standards or reaction mixtures into little vials like this:

Then I use the HPLC machine to run my samples and I’m able to determine from the results what exactly is in my reaction mixture. A good result on this machine would look like this:

This is a very clean sample, because you can see that there is only one compound in there that is giving a clear signal on the machine. This type of result typically means that I have successfully isolated my target compound! It’s the little things to get really excited about!

At the end of all this, I end up with pure product (hopefully the compound that I’ve been trying to make). Most pure compounds are some variation of a white powder or crystal and they can look really pretty. Here’s a product that I was able to isolate that I thought looked pretty cool!

Outside of my internship I’ve also been taking a few summer classes and looking into graduate programs. I officially survived Organic Chemistry II and Physics II, and I’ve (finally) decided that I want to get my PhD in Medicinal Chemistry (synthesizing organic molecules to hack biology).

Essentially, this summer I’ve been living organic chemistry– about as charming as it sounds. However, this summer has helped me realize just how passionate I am about the niche study of Medicinal Chemistry, how excited I am to get started on pursuing a higher education, and how much I thoroughly enjoy being in a lab all day. If you think you have even the slightest bit of interest of doing some serious scientific research, I highly encourage getting into a lab. It might just be the most fun you’ve had!

Honors Summer Snapshots: Aline

Ever wonder what Honors students do during the summer? Honors Ambassadors and students will be taking you into their 2020 summer routines via photos. Aline Milach Teixeira (sophomore in Chemical Engineering) has piloted 4-wheelers, canoes, and definitely absolutely a tractor this summer in and out of her internship:

Hi everyone, my name is Aline (she/her) and I will be a sophomore in Chemical Engineering this fall, as well as an FHP leader. My summer has been filled with outdoor activities, peas, corn, and some more peas.

This summer I have had the privilege of being an intern at Corteva Agriscience, which has allowed me to learn a lot about the amount of work that goes into every plate of food, and how important it is to educate yourself on the production and processing that our food undergoes.

Corteva is an agricultural research and seed-producing company (among other things), and although I did work with a lot of corn and soybeans, my main task this summer was to care for our pea plants. The company has recently started a project actively researching different types of pea plants to breed them and use them to help farmers improve their soil’s health without using excessive amounts of fertilizer/nitrates.

Part of my job is to take notes on different intercropping systems to determine which ones could be feasible and beneficial for everyday farmers to implement.


I totally drove this tractor and this is totally not posed. Totally.


Since the fields are vast, I am sometimes put in charge of transporting seed around with this ranger and loading the tractors with the appropriate seed when planting.

When I’m not working or taking my physics online class, I spend time with my brothers camping and hiking. We try to visit a new state park every weekend, and we even had the privilege of driving up to Minnesota’s beautiful Boundary Waters Canoe Area for some quality camping time.


This picture was taken during a creek walk with my brothers at Ledges State Park, one of our favorite parks we’ve visited.


At BWCA, we rent a canoe and row from campsite to campsite, soaking in nature and *occasionally* our clothes.


Living in a household full of boy scouts, I learned a thing or two about tying hammock knots this summer.

Thank you for making it this far! As a reward, please enjoy this picture of my dog Nina who is always rooting for you and wishes you all the happiness in the world: