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Katrina Ann Hiebel zip lining down forest

Support boosts momentum for aspiring zoologists

By Katharine de Baun

Rachel Blood, zoology alumna

Scholarships can be transformative for students, including zoology undergraduates, who can use the time that they would have spent at a minimum wage job to engage in one of many hands-on animal research and volunteer opportunities at Oregon State. Thanks to the generosity of its namesake founders, the John and Diane Howieson Scholarship, established in 2003, has offered financial support for undergraduate zoology students who show promise as a scholar, research scientist or teacher.

Three recent Howieson Scholars exemplify how the support they received was critical to their academic success and enabled them to take advantage of transformative experiences as part of their education at OSU.

A keen focus on academics and research

Honors zoology alumna Katrina Ann Hiebel (’18) attributes her ability to graduate in high standing and complete her honors thesis to the support of her Howieson Scholarship: “I was able to focus on school and research instead of having to get a job during the school year.”

“Undergraduate research was an amazing experience and was definitely one of the major points that helped me stand out from other applicants for veterinary school.”

The Hillsboro, Oregon, native’s passion to become a veterinarian was sparked in high school, when she did a job shadow at a veterinary clinic. At OSU, she enjoyed all of her zoology courses, particularly vertebrate biology, invertebrate biology and environmental biology, and appreciated the “unique and passionate” professors who enriched course material with personal stories about their teaching and/or research.

And speaking of research, Hiebel presented her honors thesis research on animal reproduction at the Society for Theriogenology Conference not once, but two summers in a row, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Fort Collins, Colorado, respectively.

Katrina Heibel standing next to research poster

Katrina Heibel presenting her research at the Society for Theriogenology Conference.

“Undergraduate research was an amazing experience,” reflects Hiebel, “and was definitely one of the major points that helped me stand out from other applicants for veterinary school.”

In addition to her academic work, Hiebel held officer positions for two pre-veterinary student organizations. Through the Pre-Veterinary Medical Association, she was able to attend their national club conference that expanded her knowledge of veterinary careers. She also volunteered at local animal shelters and farm sanctuaries. The Pre-Veterinary Scholars Program, which is a joint partnership between the Honors College and the College of Veterinary Medicine, allowed Hiebel to observe actual medical procedures in both the large and small animal hospitals located on OSU’s campus.

Thanks in part to her Howieson Scholarship, Katrina had such a rewarding time at Oregon State that she chose to remain on campus as a first-year student in OSU’s Veterinary School (which is extremely competitive to get into).

Believing in the next generation

“Receiving this scholarship has made a difference and been a great honor. It gives me the sense that someone out there believes in me,” says Rachel Ann Blood (Zoology ’19, pictured above). “It also gives me a chance to stress less about finances, which allows me to focus on my studies and developing myself professionally.”

Blood, a zoology senior with a Spanish minor, hopes to eventually earn a Ph.D. and pursue research in tropical ecology with a focus on conservation. The Howieson Scholarship has allowed her to build her research skills as an undergraduate, working with neotropical mammals and with Spotted Wing Drosophila. She has also been fortunate to study abroad through the Tropical Ecology and Conservation Program in Costa Rica, an “incredible and eye-opening experience.”

The Galesburg, Michigan, native also found time to volunteer at OSU’s Chintimini Wildlife Center and serve as an officer of the student Integrative Biology Club. Blood currently works as a technician in the Walton Lab in OSU’s Department of Horticulture and a teaching intern in the principles of biology course series.

What surprised her most about the College of Science? “The number of opportunities, such as research, along with numerous resources to help you find your way. They are there for you and want to see you succeed!” Without the support she received as a Howieson scholar, Blood might not have been able to take advantage of the rich experiences she found open to her.

Establishing herself in zoology as an undergraduate

Lindsey Ferguson holding insect during study abroad

Lindsey Ferguson, Honors zoology alumna

Lindsey Ferguson (’17), an Honors zoology alumna, is grateful to the Howieson Scholarship for allowing her to dedicate time to research “rather than working to pay my way through.” As a result of her hard work, she earned a spot as an author on her first scientific paper as a senior in 2017. Thanks to the support she received, Ferguson began to establish herself in the field — as an undergraduate — and gained invaluable hands-on experience that enriched her OSU education.

Ferguson grew up in Tualatin, Oregon, where a childhood love of animals evolved into a pursuit of veterinary medicine. Her passion found further focus as a freshman when she started working in a reproductive neuroendocrinology lab on campus, eventually deciding to specialize as a veterinary pathologist in reproductive research. She expanded her freshman research by traveling to Panama City, Panama, during her junior year on an IE3 Global Internship. She interned at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, speaking in English and Spanish with people from all over the world and conducting field experiments on environmental factors affecting barnacle life cycles and survival.

In addition to research, Ferguson was able to participate in many other beyond-the-classroom experiences because of the freedom and flexibility she enjoyed as a Howieson scholar. She gained valuable leadership skills as vice president for the Pre-Veterinary Scholars Program. In the College of Science, Ferguson served as a Peer Mentor for first-year biology students interested in wildlife and veterinary medicine. She also served as an Undergraduate Research Ambassador and spent a few summers teaching science and art to elementary school-aged campers as an instructor at OSU Kidspirit and the Oregon Zoo. It may be hard to believe, but Ferguson also played violin in the OSU Symphony, surprising given everything else that she accomplished.

Finally, Ferguson credits the Howieson Scholarship for allowing her to build a competitive application and be offered acceptance to multiple veterinary schools! She chose to stay at OSU, where she is currently in her second year, “because I love it here!”