Emily Greeson always thought she’d get a degree in science and find a job working outside. Like her siblings, she pursued an advanced degree--not in psychology like her sister or linguistics like her brother, but in microbiology, thinking she’d work in regulatory affairs. She participated in research opportunities throughout her undergraduate years and found a particular skill in doing field work on water quality research projects for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and local health departments. “I grew up on a farm and love being outside,” she said, so the chance to do science outdoors made sense to her.
“When I got to graduate school I realized, how much I really enjoy bench work and designing experiments,” she said. As a student in the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, she is drawn to basic science that can serve as a foundation for translational work. Her work focuses on developing a “proof of concept” that will create a probiotic bacterium that can affect mammalian cells by using heat to turn on or off gene production. “You don’t want a bacterium to constantly make proteins,” she explained. “So I’m working on heat as a tool to turn the production on and off.”
As she works toward the experiments that will comprise her dissertation, Greeson is also taking advantage of opportunities to pursue prospects that bring science out of the lab. She was part of a cohort of students in MSU BEST (Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training), where she learned more about the career opportunities she could pursue to do the work that suits her, in places that benefit from her expertise and experience. To test out her skills in a new way, Greeson participated in the Transdisciplinary Graduate Fellows Program, a co-curricular program through the MSU Center for Interdisciplinarity which allowed her to partner with two other graduate students and a research team at the MidMichigan Medical Center – Gratiot to study colorectal cancer screening rates in rural, central Michigan. This project allowed her a chance to design a cross-sectional study, collect data, and work closely with experts across medicine and the social sciences, but she also learned that “communication is key. It’s so important when you’re managing a project like this, with so many people who have different priorities.”
Greeson’s strong communication skills also serve her well as a teacher, which is a particular passion for her. “I took a course called Teaching College Science, because I like knowing the reasons behind doing things. I can follow instructions or best practices, but I really prefer to understand the ‘why’ of it.” To take her pedagogical inquiry further, Greeson applied to the Future Academic Scholars of Teaching Fellowship; she’s been accepted to the ’21-’22 cohort and will delve further into the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning and continue her research via a Teaching as Research project.
When she’s not doing her research or community engagement, Greeson contributes her teaching talents and her love of the outdoors to the Lansing Sailing Club, where she is a volunteer instructor, helping adults learn how to sail and assisting with sailboat races on the weekend. She may love bench work, but she isn’t giving up teaching… or the outdoors.