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Student Profiles

Toni MorcosToni Morcos

Toni Morcos believes if you stop asking questions or stop looking for answers, you start to go backwards. That’s why she says she loves science and research. It’s this belief that led her to pursue research on spinal muscular atrophy in Dr. Chris Lorson’s lab as well as to engage in various service work in the community. Morcos is the recipient of many awards, including a Cherng Summar Scholars fellowship, the Divisioin’s Outstanding Junior Award, and a Hesburgh Academic Achievement Award. She was also tapped for membership in Mortar Board.

Graduating class: May 2020
Hometown: Corvallis, OR
Career Goal: Toni plans on going to medical school

Learn more about Toni’s research on spinal muscular atrophy and her academic achievements.


Joshua JonesJoshua Jones

Joshua Jones says he originally thought he would take biology in college on his path to becoming a doctor, until he heard about opportunities for undergraduate research. By working on various projects in the lab of Dr. Manuel Leal — from lizards to jumping spiders — as well as serving as a peer mentor for the Initiative to Maximize Student Diversity, he discovered not only his passion for scientific inquiry but a path to a future in academia.

Graduating Class: May 2019
Hometown: St. Louis, MO
Career Goal: Joshua will be pursuing his Ph.D. at the University of Indiana Bloomington in the Evolution, Ecology, and Behavior program. Ultimately, he wants to be a professor.

Learn more about Joshua Jones, his reflections on his time at Mizzou, and his advice for incoming biology students.


Erin HedigerErin Hediger

For Erin Hediger, making a difference is central to her goals and her achievements. Hediger has spent much of her spare time throughout college volunteering to help members of the Mizzou and Columbia communities. After discovering an aptitude for genetics as well as a passion for tutoring other students in genetics, she learned that she could combine all her interests — genetics, teaching, and helping others — by pursuing a career as a genetic counselor.

Graduating Class: May 2019
Hometown: St. Louis, MO
Career Goal: Erin will be pursuing her Master’s degree in genetic counseling next fall.

Learn more about Erin’s volunteerism and her decision to pursue a career as a genetic counselor.


Rebecca CraiggRebecca Craigg

As a first-generation college student with an interest in science, Rebecca Craigg was unsure what undergraduate research entailed. She says “uncertainty and curiosity” led her to the lab of Dr. D Cornelison, who put her to work on a project investigating cellular signals that govern the interactions between “fast” and “slow” muscle fibers and the neurons that stimulate them. She soon found she had both a passion and talent for research. Craigg is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Outstanding Senior Award and the prestigious 2019 Mark Twain Fellowship.

Graduating Class: May 2019
Hometown: Taos, MO
Career Goal: Rebecca is off to the University of Oxford to study global health science and epidemiology. Ultimately, she plans to enroll in an M.D., Ph.D. program and to work in both a surgical and research setting as well as  with the Doctors Without Borders organization.

Read more about Rebecca’s undergraduate research experience and her Mark Twain Fellowship.


Jorden Alex

Jorden Alex’s inclination for seeking out new situations is what motivated her to study abroad while pursuing her undergraduate degree in biological sciences with a minor in public policy and leadership. The pre-med student and former Res Life and BIOME advisor first went to Nicaragua as part of a Mizzou Global Medical Brigade Program and then chose to do a semester-long study abroad experience in London, where she studied public health and policy. She says everyone should study abroad if they get the opportunity because it can be a life changing experience.

Graduating Class: May 2018
Hometown: Dallas, TX
Career Goal: Jorden is headed for medical school and hopes to eventually become a craniofacial surgeon

Learn more about Jorden’s study abroad experiences as well as her experiences in the BIOME program.


Caroline DunnCaroline Dunn

Caroline Dunn wanted to be a novelist until she discovered bacteria. She had to know more. She came to Mizzou as part of the Discovery Fellows Program for undergraduate researchers in the Honors College. Right away, she joined a lab that studies phages, which are viruses that attack bacteria. Later on, she did research aimed at uncovering the molecular changes that occur when bacterial cells divide. She is now pursuing her Ph.D. in microbiology at Indiana University.

Graduating Class: May 2018
Hometown: Houston, MO
Career Goal: Professor.

Read more about Caroline’s research experience.


The image shows Carrie Davis Hansson at a lab bench.Carrie Davis-Hansson

Carrie Davis-Hansson started Mizzou after living abroad in Sweden and traveling the world for many years. After discovering a passion for the life sciences, she joined a research lab where she is investigating the molecular and cellular changes that occur in neurons following a spinal cord injury that can cause involuntary muscle movements. She is a recipient of a 2018 Outstanding Senior Award in Biological Sciences.

Graduating Class: August 2018
Hometown: Poplar Bluff, MO
Career Goal: Carrie is pursuing her Master’s degree in biological sciences here at Mizzou and then hopes to go back to Sweden for her Ph.D. Ultimately, she’d like to do research in academic or corporate world.

Read more about Carrie and watch a video where she talks about finding her passion for science and describes her research on spinal cord injuries.


Sam McNair

Sam McNair is a Biological Sciences and Religious Studies double major. He was pre-accepted into the MU School of Medicine through the Bryant Scholars Pre-Admission Program and will start medical school in the fall of 2018. As a Peer Advisor for the Division of Biological Sciences, he has “racked up a lot of advice” that he likes to share with freshmen who are also considering a career in medicine.

Graduating Class: May 2018
Hometown: Eureka, MO
Career Goal: Medical Doctor

Read more about Sam and watch a video where he shares the advice he offers to other pre-med students.


Braden ZinkBraden Zink

A Biological Sciences major, Zink is using various -omic approaches to investigate the variation in amino acid composition of seeds in the lab of Dr. Ruthie Angelovici. Zink received funding from the Cherng Summer Scholar Program in support of his research. He is the recipient of both the Outstanding Junior and Outstanding Sophomore awards from the Division of Biological Sciences. Zink will be attending the MU School of Medicine in fall of 2018.

Minor: Psychology
Certificates: Multicultural Studies and Honors
Graduating Class:
May 2018
Hometown: O’Fallon, MO
Career Goal: M.D., specializing in interventional cardiology

Read more about Braden’s undergraduate research experiences.


Stephanie RuckStephanie Ruck

Stephanie Ruck has always loved being outdoors, so she jumped at the chance to participate in a research project that would involve going out and catching lizards. As part of a summer-long research project with Dr. Manuel Leal, Ruck investigated whether lizards have the ability to solve novel problems, an ability biologists call behavioral flexibility. She was invited to present the findings from her research at the 30th Annual Meeting of the Missouri Herpetological Association.

Graduating class: December 2018
Hometown: St. Louis
Career Goal: Research Scientist

Read more about Stephanie’s research and watch a video that shows how she tested a lizard’s cognition.


Alex McClellandAlex McClelland

Alex McClelland says that his love for plant biology stems from a fun fact: that bananas share 50% of human DNA. He says knowing that “plants are just as complex as animals and do a lot of the same stuff we do” motivated him to join a plant science lab his freshman year. Since then, Alex has been investigating the genes and proteins that regulate a plant’s response to stress in the lab of Dr. Walter Gassmann. The summer before his senior year, McClelland had the opportunity to expand his research portfolio by spending a summer doing research on small RNAs at the Donald Danforth Plant Sciences Center in St. Louis. He has received support for his research experiences from MU’s Freshman Research in Plant Sciences (FRIPS) Program and the Life Science Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program.

Graduating Class: May 2018
Hometown: St. Louis, MO
Career Goal:  Alex has been accepted into the Ph.D. program in Genetics, Genomics, and Bioinformatics at the University of California, Riverside. His long-term goal is to become a professor.

Read more about Alex’s undergraduate research experience.