Get to Know Allie Kemph

Allie Kemph, first year graduate student

Allie Kemph is a first year graduate student in the Department of Biological Sciences. She shares her academic journey with us.

Q. What is your background in the biological sciences?
A. I went to Saint Louis University for my undergraduate degree in biology with a concentration in biochemistry and molecular biology. I was always interested in animals and considered becoming a veterinarian. However, I quickly shifted my focus to biology after working in a laboratory. As an undergraduate, I participated in research about environmental factors driving evolutionary changes in mating behaviors and predator-prey interactions. I also liked working outside in the field, the nearby woods, catching harvestmen by hand.

Q. What do you like about lab research?
A. In a broad field like biology, there are a never-ending number of interesting topics to research. When new questions come up during research, I like that I can choose the most interesting ones and then determine the best approaches to pursue them. I get to add new components to my work. I also enjoy the collaborative environment of the laboratory. I recently wrapped up my rotational period as a first year graduate student, which was a great opportunity to see the variety of lab options in the MCDB/N program.

Q. What were the lab rotations like at UIC?
A. The rotations were a really great experience. A typical day might involve running PCRs followed by gel analysis – that’s one experiment common to all of my rotations. It was great to work directly with the senior graduate student mentors. They provided a lot of guidance during the experiments and had a lot of helpful advice about being a graduate student in general. Finding and presenting results in the short time frame of the rotations was also very useful. I was interested in several labs and selected my rotations based on the research focus and prospective projects of each lab. Eventually I chose Jeremy Lynch lab which focuses on the mechanisms of pattern formation and development in the parasitoid wasp, Nasonia Vitripennis. The project was really interesting and the lab overall was a good fit for me.

Q. What is it like to be a first-year grad student during the pandemic?
A. Of course, it was frustrating to not be able to come in when I had finally joined my lab and was just starting experiments. Although we are able to work in the lab again, it’s strange to come to campus but have to socially distance myself from other students, especially the students who are not in my lab. I’ve had to transition to online seminars, classes, and TA responsibilities, which was challenging, but now I have more time to catch up on background reading and more thoroughly plan future experiments. I hope to make up for some of the time that we were locked-down.

Q. What do you like to do outside of school?
A. Outside of school, I find baking and painting very relaxing. Whenever the weather is nice, I enjoy playing tennis and soccer.