WTAMU Undergraduate Researcher Studies at the CVM

Laura Schulze
Laura Schulze, an undergraduate at West Texas A&M University, with Dr. David Threadgill

Laura Schulze, an undergraduate biology and pre-medicine major at West Texas A&M University, is currently participating in an eight-week research project in the laboratory at Texas A&M University in College Station. The experience is a unique opportunity for Schulze. “This is a wonderful opportunity with such a wonderful school,” she said. “Working with Dr. Theadgill and having help from other amazing professors has been quite remarkable.”

Beyond Schulze’s work, the experience is evidence of the exceptional partnership between universities within the Texas A&M System and is an example of how the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) is reaching out to serve every Texan every day. “I think this partnership is great,” Threadgill said. “It’s exactly what we need right now. Although there is interest in expanding the CVM DVM program, the pipeline for that growth is at the undergraduate level. I think Laura is a perfect example of someone who, as a very skilled undergraduate, can grow and learn new skills that will hopefully help her in her profession for years to come.

Story Courtesy of West Texas A&M University

She’s overwhelmed and humbled by the generosity of so many at West Texas A&M University (WTAMU), but Laura Schulze definitely deserves some credit. She recently landed an internship with the Biomedical Research Immersion and Diversity for Graduate Education (BRIDGE) program at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences

Schulze, a junior biology and pre-medicine major from Hereford, Texas is the BRIDGE program’s first intern. She’s also an undergraduate selected to participate in a program designed for graduate students. And it’s no wonder that Texas A&M faculty members interviewing her for the internship were impressed with the premise of her research. Her focus during the two-month summer internship will be her own research project: Genomic Effects of Bovine Respiratory Diseases on Cattle Myocardium.

“I’m just an undergraduate, so for them to take my research into their lab is so remarkable, exciting, and scary at the same time,” Schulze said. “I feel very blessed to get to do this.”

It’s a pretty hefty topic for an undergraduate, but the idea for her research began two years ago while working as a medical intern at the Amarillo Heart Group. Heart surgery, heart catheters, and electrophysiology studies kindled her interest, and a genetics course and molecular cytogenetic class at WTAMU later confirmed her idea for research on myocardium, the muscular substance of the heart. Schulze contacted WTAMU’s Department of Agriculture to see if she could start dissecting cattle hearts left over from harvests, and that’s when her research began in earnest.

“There is not a corner of this university that hasn’t stepped up to help me,” Schulze said. “I found my village again—right here at WTAMU.”

When Schulze shared her idea for the research with Dr. Dean Hawkins, dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences, he encouraged her to apply for the BRIDGE internship. She then began working with eight WTAMU professors on the project to analyze the interatrial septum and the lung tissues to find the correlation and/or cause of bovine respiratory diseases in relation to bovine sudden cardiac death.

“Laura is a force of nature,” said Dr. Rocky Ward, associate professor of biology and co-chair of Schulze’s research project. “Once she decided on a line of research, she has followed every lead and hunted down every possible resource. She will succeed—watch out world.”

Schulze is currently immersed in an eight-week research-intensive program in a state-of-the-art lab in College Station, Texas. The opportunity is allowing her to expand her research on the myocardial samples to look at the genetic impact of infection rates related to bovine sudden cardiac death. She hopes her research will one day benefit human lives as well.

Even though research is a major focus at WTAMU for Schulze, she still finds time to be a big part of her University ‘village.’ She volunteers at many campus events and is active in the University’s Veterans Network, serving a one-year term as president of the organization. She also has served as a teaching assistant in the A&P labs—all while raising three children with her Navy-enlisted husband.

After earning a bachelor’s degree at WTAMU in May 2017, Schulze plans to earn a master’s in genomic studies while becoming an officer in the United States Navy. Medical school is next on her agenda for a Ph.D. in genetics and a medical degree with a specialization in electrophysiology. She hopes to eventually serve in the U.S. Navy on the USNS Comfort, the largest floating medical hospital.

Those are some big plans for this junior biology and pre-medicine major. But for an undergraduate who landed a graduate-level research internship, there’s no doubt that Schulze’s determination will take her wherever she wants to go. And she can count on her WTAMU ‘village’ to be there, backing her all the way.