Research experience gives NDSU student many career options
Published April 2017
Lauren Singelmann is a third-year student at NDSU and already is a seasoned researcher.
All it took to get her in a lab was an email to an NDSU faculty member, expressing her interest in math and engineering. The faculty member invited Singelmann, who was a senior at Fargo’s North High, to visit labs at the university, which led her to choose NDSU.
“I knew I could conduct research right away,” she said.
Singelmann, an electrical engineering major, is on a research team working on a series of cardiovascular engineering projects. The hands-on experience is preparing her for the next step, whether that is graduate school or the workforce. As a student researcher, she applies knowledge she learns in the classroom, works as part of a team and solves complex problems. It also brings out the teacher in her.
She recently observed as a newer member of the team set up an experiment. The student searched for the tiny aorta in a mouse heart. The dark red heart was about the size of a marble, but the lighted magnifying glass supersized its slippery contours.
The student was nervous. It was only her second time setting up the experiment in one of NDSU’s newest research labs, and the room was full of people. Singelmann, along with several lab partners, were there to offer advice and encouragement. “Try again. You’ll get it.”
The student found the aorta on the third try. The experiment was ready to begin.
It’s one of many experiments Singelmann has conducted. Her first project exposed mice to radiofrequency waves to see which, if any, heart genes the waves changed. They discovered 10 genes had been manipulated.
Singelmann and other undergraduate students then took on their own part of the project: collecting the cells from mice and pelting them with radiofrequency waves. The research could one day be applied to human cardiovascular therapies and treatments that are less invasive than pacemakers.
“It could lead to a new branch of medicine if it works,” she said.
Singelmann’s work has been funded in part by a North Dakota Venture Grant from the North Dakota Department of Commerce. The lab is led by Dan Ewert, retired professor of electrical and computer engineering.
“Lauren has been involved in NDSU’s innovative education paradigm, discovery-based learning, that unifies education and research,” Ewert said. “This new educational model allows students and faculty mentors to tackle ‘moonshot’ level problems and the results are in—it works beyond expectations.”
Singelmann wants to expand her research to brain cells. “I want to incorporate science and research to understand how the brain develops,” she said.
She wants to grow the cells into a neural network, electrically stimulate the network and analyze how it “learns” and forms synapses. The lab work combines two of her biggest interests: the science behind the brain and teaching.
She’s also a teacher in the community. Last fall, she tutored high school students at Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton Public Schools on math and STEM concepts. This spring, she is mentoring second-grade math students at Fargo’s Ed Clapp Elementary.
She connects the student’s passions and interests with her lesson plans. For example, she taught DGF students computer coding techniques by tying the lessons to Instagram.
“At any age, it’s about thinking of what the students want to learn and putting it into that perspective,” Singelmann said.
She enjoys seeing students “get it.” At an outreach event for young girls and their moms, she explained electrical engineering concepts such as series and parallel circuits in terms they could understand.
Singelmann plans to graduate in spring 2018, and her undergraduate research experience gives her many career options. She is looking for a summer internship in the private sector. She also is open to academia, where she can pursue research and teaching.
“I’ve enjoyed research because I can decide what I want to learn,” Singelmann said. “I can figure out what I want to solve and figure out how to do it.”