Make The Connection

April 29, 2024 | By Cole Hatcher

Natalia Molotievskiy '25 spent the academic year using an OWU Connection grant to study microorganisms and the breakdown of bird feathers. An international transfer student, she plans a career in environmental microbiology research. (Photo courtesy of Natalia Molotievskiy '25)

No Featherweight

Ohio Wesleyan Student Recognized for Bird Feather, Microbiology Research

Name: Natalia Molotievskiy '25
Hometown: Volintiri, Republic of Moldova
High School: "Columna," Chisinau, Republic of Moldova
Major: Microbiology

OWU Connection Experience: Using a Theory-to-Practice Grant to complete a research project titled "Proteolytic bacteria isolated from feathers" between September and March

Molotievskiy was recognized earlier this month by the Ohio Branch of the American Society for Microbiology for having one of the best undergraduate research posters presented at the organization's 2024 annual meeting. (She tied for the honor with fellow Bishop Jack Gensler '26 of Toledo, Ohio.) Molotievskiy's research utilized OWU's scanning transmission electron microscope.

Developing 'Critical Insights and Skills'

"My interest in exploring the ecological roles of microorganisms has led me to focus on the study of feather-degrading bacteria," Molotievskiy says. "This program enables me to delve deeper into screening and characterizing these bacteria for potential industrial uses, applying theoretical knowledge in real-life settings.

"This experience perfectly suits my long-term ambition of pursuing a career in environmental microbiology research. Participating in this program equipped me with critical insights and skills, significantly enriching my academic journey and enhancing my readiness for future professional challenges in microbiology and its associated fields.

"This OWU Connection experience perfectly matches my academic pursuits with practical applications, creating a unique platform for personal and professional development."

My Favorite Moment

"My favorite moment of the experience was undoubtedly when I first conducted the keratinase activity experiment using a keratin azure substrate.

"Witnessing the solution change from clear to blue as the enzyme activity occurred was incredibly rewarding. This visual confirmation of the enzyme's function successfully demonstrated my theoretical knowledge and an explicit illustration of the enzyme's potential in real-life applications.

"It was a pivotal moment that deepened my understanding of microbial processes and reinforced my passion for microbiology, making it the highlight of my experience."

Lessons Learned

"I gained invaluable lessons that not only tied back to my classroom learning but also forward to my future career plans. Firstly, the project allowed me to apply several methods I had learned in class, providing a practical context to theoretical knowledge. This application reinforced my understanding and gave me confidence in my skills.

"More significantly, I encountered situations where I needed to perform experiments not covered in my coursework. This required me to consult scientific literature and collaborate closely with my adviser to learn new protocols and assess their feasibility. This aspect of the project taught me the importance of resourcefulness and continuous learning, skills that are vital for a successful research career in microbiology.

"Furthermore, the experience honed my time management and project planning skills. Conducting experiments during an active semester demanded that I balance my project responsibilities with academic studies. This improved my ability to prioritize tasks and manage time effectively, a critical skill for any aspiring professional."

Experiences like this … provide a platform for students to engage deeply with their field of study, tackle practical challenges, and develop a suite of skills essential for academic and career success.

Natalia Molotievskiy '25

A Valuable Stepping Stone

"Experiences like this are crucial because they bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and real-world application. They provide a platform for students to engage deeply with their field of study, tackle practical challenges, and develop a suite of skills essential for academic and career success. This experience has been a stepping stone toward becoming a skilled microbiologist, equipped with technical expertise and practical insights."

My Faculty Mentors

"My experience was significantly enriched through the involvement of several esteemed OWU faculty members. I was fortunate to be mentored by Dr. Laura Tuhela-Reuning, who played a pivotal role throughout the project. Dr. Tuhela-Reuning helped organize the project and provided invaluable guidance at critical points. Her advice was crucial whenever I encountered challenges or had to make important decisions, ensuring I could confidently navigate any difficulties.

"Additionally, Dr. Andrea M. Suria provided specialized guidance in areas related to molecular identification and whole genome sequencing of bacterial strains. Her expertise offered a deeper dive into molecular techniques essential for my project's success.

"Melinda Endres, our lab manager, smoothly handled the lab flow and logistics. Her efficient laboratory management and procurement of necessary reagents allowed me to conduct my experiments without delays, contributing significantly to the seamless progression of my work.

"The collective support of Biological Sciences Department faculty members was instrumental in the practical execution of my project and my personal and academic growth, underscoring the value of faculty involvement in student projects at OWU."

My Campus Involvements

"Outside of the classroom, my main involvements on campus are deeply intertwined with my roles as a parent and as a laboratory staff member. As a mother to a 4-year-old, much of my time outside academics is dedicated to nurturing and caring for my child, which has taught me invaluable lessons in time management, patience, and multitasking. I also hold a StAP (Student Assistantship Program) position in the microbiology laboratory. Balancing these responsibilities has enriched my experience, providing me with unique insights and skills that complement my academic objectives."

Why I Chose Ohio Wesleyan?

"I chose to attend Ohio Wesleyan University primarily because of its strong emphasis on research and experiential learning, exemplified by the OWU Connection program. This signature program stood out because it integrates classroom learning with real-world experience through faculty-mentored pathways. The opportunity to engage in internships, research, travel, creative projects, and service initiatives directly aligned with my academic and career goals, making OWU an ideal fit for my aspirations.

"Additionally, as an international transfer student, the support I received during the application process was exceptional. The university's guidance was invaluable, helping me navigate the complexities of transferring, which further affirmed my decision to choose OWU. The personalized attention and dedication ensured a smooth transition, eased my initial concerns, and showcased the nurturing and supportive community I have joined."

My Plans After Graduation

"I plan to continue my education by entering graduate school to further my studies in microbiology. My goal is to join a research laboratory where I can contribute to groundbreaking studies and advance our understanding in this field.

"Ohio Wesleyan University is crucial in preparing me for these future endeavors. Through the OWU Connection program, I've had the opportunity to engage in hands-on research projects directly related to my field of interest. These experiences enhance my practical skills and analytical and problem-solving abilities, making me a strong candidate for competitive graduate programs."