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Dalton State Student Succeeds in Prestigious Research Experience

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It wasn’t Jarrod Sitton’s original intention to branch out so far from biology.

But the hands-on learning experience Sitton, a biology major at Dalton State, received with the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago the last several weeks was invaluable to his education.

Sitton landed the prestigious opportunity through the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program, which is awarded to a small percentage of college students each year. He spent the last 10 weeks researching new possibilities in quantum technology design.

“I got a closer look at what higher-caliber scientific research looks like,” said Sitton, who is expected to graduate in May 2022. “This is publication level research. I will be able to look back on this when I’m deciding what to do after graduation, and I can definitely use this experience to help further myself in academics and professionally.

“This experience helped me feel more like a professional, more of an asset to the scientific community and not just a student showing up to class to learn information for a test,” he said. “That’s something the REU emphasizes, that we look at ourselves as professionals who have skills and are applying them. We are taking our classroom knowledge and doing something meaningful with it. And that’s something I learned how to do this summer.”

Sitton worked to explore new materials for computer architecture geared toward increasing their speed and capacity. Due to the pandemic, his research was conducted remotely.

“Acceptance into an REU is highly competitive, and very few undergraduates ever have the chance to participate in a program like he did,” said Dr. Matthew Chenoweth, an associate professor of biology at Dalton State. “Those that do gain entry receive valuable experience in experimental design, data analysis and results reporting. Jarrod is a biology major so joining a group so heavily focused on physics was a challenge. However, he was certainly up to it. He did so well one of the REU coordinators sent an unsolicited email to some people at Dalton State praising the work Jarrod did.”

Sitton works with Chenoweth conducting research on campus cloning for a fluorescent protein to compare expression systems. He credits that research experience as a reason he succeeded with the REU.

“My experience with Dr. Chenoweth taught me how to conduct research properly,” he said. “Being sure of what I’m doing helped set me up for success in my REU. I knew if I were to mess up one number in an input file it would mess up the entire calculation. The rest of what we were doing would be based on a wrong number. In my experience in genetics and molecular biology with Dr. Chenoweth, because it is so technical, you have to pay a lot of attention and go back and think about what results mean.”

Sitton is not certain what he will do after graduation but is hoping to be accepted to medical school. Because of the research experience, he is considering pursuing anesthesiology and researching why some people have negative side effects with anesthesia.

“As a student, Jarrod is fantastic,” Chenoweth said. “I’ve had him in four classes ranging from Intro to Biology II up to senior level courses in Molecular Biology and Microscopy. Jarrod is a bright and dedicated student. He is enthusiastic and tireless in his research. Overall, he’s a tremendous individual, and I’m sure he’ll be successful wherever his path takes him.”

The close-knit community at Dalton State is one reason Sitton says he is successful as a student.

“In high school you hear of horror stories of students through college, professors who don’t care, massive lecture halls, you’re a random person, you talk to a professor and they don’t know who you are, but that’s definitely not the case at Dalton State,” Sitton said. “I have never walked up to a professor here and them not want to help me. They are providing me help and applicable knowledge. I’m grateful Dalton State is doing that for me.”

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