“Dear Auggies: ” Anna Renner ’17 Discusses Her First Year in PA School

The URGO office received the following letter from Anna Renner, a graduate of 2017, who now attends Clarkson University. She had a few retrospective thoughts to share about the application process, how she’s doing in her PA program, and what her future looks like:

Dear Auggies,

Just a year ago, I was sitting in the computer lab with a bunch of other students hopeful about getting into grad school, agonizing over our personal statements. Trust me when I tell you this: have MANY people edit and read your statement. I can’t tell you how many times I utilized Catherina in addition to friends and family who were “well-versed.” I am finishing up my second semester as PA student in my didactic year at Clarkson University in Northern New York. It’s hard to believe so much has happened since my time at Augsburg, between getting accepted into two PA programs, getting to pick my number one school, graduating, quitting my full-time job, and packing my entire life in my car and driving through a blizzard to Upstate NY.

We have twelve months of didactic traininAnna Renner and friendsg in our program; during these months we take courses in clinical medicine, basic sciences, ethical and legal issues in the PA profession, patient assessment, among others. We also utilize a “problem-based learning” approach, or what we call “PBL.”  We do small-group sessions each week during all three semesters of didactic training where we are given a chief-complaint and together we have to come up with a working diagnosis, a plan for assessing, and a treatment plan with very little instruction from our professors. PBL and our simulation labs are where we are able to bring what we learn from the classroom into a more practical, clinical approach. During our first semester, we covered the bulk of what is covered on our medical board’s licensure exam, which included pulmonology, cardiology, GI, and dermatology. Each exam we have taken builds off previous material, which I think is great because we are constantly reviewing what we have already learned. We then have 14 months of clinical education, where we do our rotations, have a class in special procedures, and also have a month set aside for doing our master thesis project, which we actually start this upcoming summer. Now, as much as I study (which is almost every second of every day) we do have fun while in PA school.Clarkson University scrubs and stethescope

Clarkson is devoted to helping not only our community, but also helping others nationally and internationally. We frequently host events for the entire community to attend. For example, we held the Teddy Bear toss, where all the teddy bears donated during one of the hockey games (Go Golden Knights!) were then given to the children on the pediatric floors at all the surrounding hospitals. We also put together the breast cancer walk coming up in May. Taking things out of the USA, Clarkson has an annual mission trip where we go to either the Dominican Republic or Nicaragua and spend our spring break seeing members of a community, offering medical care free of cost. We get donations from the local hospitals and sponsors.

One of the best things about Clarkson is how close we all are as a program. The third years interact with us first years, and we all go on outings together and truly try to help each other. It feels like family here, sometimes a little dysfunctional, but that’s just because we are all under quite a bit of stress at times. I was a little hesitant moving to a rural area just because I grew up in St. Paul, MN. It was a definite culture shock, however, I am learning not only what is necessary for being a quality PA no matter where I go, but I am also learning tricks and tips of the trade that someone may not get in the city–for instance, how to manage and stabilize a patient where you are the only PA working in the emergency room with no M.D. on site.  Which, shockingly, there is a difference in how you manage a patient in a rural setting versus at a level 1 trauma center. We have many opportunities being here at Clarkson, as they have clinical rotation sites set up all over Northern NY, in NYC, and all over the US. Even Alaska!Anna Renner's PA cohort

Coming up in June, we have our White Coat Ceremony, which we are all looking forward to, as it will represent a milestone for us that we have made it past our first semester and will jump into the trenches of second semester, and it is to represent the transition of where we will start seeing patients in the hospital to practice taking history and physicals.

If you are unsure if a rural health program is right for you and want to know more, or have any questions in general about PA school, please feel free to e-mail me: rennerak@clarkson.edu




Don’t give up! I promise what you are going through is worth it!


Anna Renner, PA-S1

NYSSPA Student Ambassador

Augsburg Alumni 17’

Focus on Graduate School: Mike Alves ‘17, PhD Student at UC San Diego

Chemistry major Mike Alves ‘17 had a unique introduction to Augsburg University. After completing his associates degree at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, he applied and was accepted to pursue his Bachelor’s at Augsburg, but instead of starting classes in the fall with other transfers and first years, he began his time on campus in the summer of 2015 as an AugSTEM researcher. You can read more about his experience in a 2015 profile here!


Even then, he knew he wanted to pursue a PhD in chemistry, and now he is fulfilling that dream. “I’m currently in La Jolla, California, enrolled in a PhD program (Analytical and Atmospheric Chemistry) in the Chemistry and Biochemistry division at UC San Diego,” Mike shared.


This week on the blog, we caught up with the past ACS Club president, McNair scholar, and AugSTEM and NorthstarSTEM scholar to learn more about his path toward his professional and academic goals.


What led you to first get involved with research? How have your research projects changed or built upon each other?

Mike Alves in Chemistry Lab


What led me to first get involved with research was none other than Augsburg’s own Dr. Dave Hanson. With a paid summer research project after graduating community college, and a subsequent hiring for paid research during the school year, I was able to quit my full time job as a waiter, and, for the first time, focus on my path as a chemist. My first project was characterizing human breath using a specialized mass spectrometric technique. I was able to successfully identify major breath compounds that had the potential to be biomarkers – molecules in our body that are indicative of specific bodily processes such as metabolism or immune responses. I now work on climate related studies, as well as indoor air chemistry – very similar to my first project – where I look at our impact on the surfaces and breathable air around us, and possibly how it might affect us in turn.


How have your research experiences changed the way you approach your academic courses?


Since my research at Augsburg, I look at academic courses through the lens of my current projects. I enjoy taking classes that could possibly help my research both currently and in the future, including: communication, coding, instrumental courses, etc. Therefore, I now tend to forgo the longer classes for shorter and more intense 1-4 week workshops. This way I know exactly what I’ll be learning and there’s no lag time between material that might not necessarily apply to my interests.


Explain the process of working on your graduate school applications. Were there departments, groups, clubs, or activities at Augsburg that made a difference in your thinking or assisted with your app?


Working on graduate school applications is difficult, but not impossible. I started early because I was exposed to quite a few writing workshops, courtesy of McNair and my summer Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program in San Diego. I received a lot of different advice on how to approach a grad application, and I ended up with my own style – something I knew that fit my story the best. Beginning with a standard online outline of a graduate application was nice, but it led to something that was very clunky and not story-like at all. Having resources like McNair or CAICE definitely helped me write a great graduate school application.


What was the most challenging part of your application, and how did you meet that challenge?


The most challenging part of writing an application is walking between the fine line of bragging about yourself and being too modestabout your achievements. I think a lot of people tend to undersell themselves in their applications

to the point of even omitting amazing details. I realized where this line was when I started getting feedback from multiple people about my applications. The best interaction was with Dr. B from the Biology department. Instead of speaking about my application specifically, I just told her my story – of how I got to Augsburg and what I did there. Her reactions to specific parts of my story gave me the realization that there were key details of my life that seemed unimportant to me but were very interesting to other people. The result was an application that told a story of not just my achievements, but how those experiences led me to become an applicant who was wholly prepared for graduate school.


How has research and winning the Minnesota Space Grant changed your course post-Augsburg?


Having a paid research position during the school year, as well as receiving grants and scholarships like the Minnesota Space Grant, were integral to my path in chemistry. As someone from a low-income family, my financial status has always been something I was unsure about. The support that I received allowed me to focus on chemistry instead. This is important because it was a time where I was genuinely interested in STEM, and as a result, I have carried that interest with me in my graduate studies.


What advice do you have for current Auggies who are considering research or applying for prestigious grants and awards?


For current students considering research, I would say – try it. There are dozens of REUs and similar programs across the nation that will specifically accept inexperienced applicants. Thankfully at Augsburg, the URGO program exists and can provide you with not just the experience, but also the capability to apply to other summer internships/research positions at high caliber institutions later on.


For students considering applying for prestigious grants and awards – if you’re eligible, absolutely apply. I think the common saying “You gotta be in it to win it” applies well here. It only takes a couple decisions from a few random people in the application process to lead to something that could drastically change your life. I would recommend spending a good couple of weeks generating a solid personal statement draft with multiple reviewers, and then going to Hard Times (the 24/7 café down the road) to crank out the applications one by one. Email professors for recommendations on multiple grants and such. It takes time, but trust me – it’s worth it.

Focus on Research: Holly Kundel ‘19, Goldwater Scholar

Junior biology major Holly Kundel ‘19 is Augsburg’s newest Goldwater Scholar. Holly, who is also pursuing minors in environmental studies and mathematics, has been involved with research at Augsburg since the summer after her first year when she worked with Dr. Emily Schilling on a project related to the Canada Darner dragonfly. She is also a member of Tri-Beta, the Augsburg Honors Program, and Campus Ministry.

The Goldwater Scholarship a premier award available to students in the country, and will provide tuition assistance for her senior year of undergraduate study and set her apart in her future graduate school applications. She aspires to earn a PhD in environmental biology, focusing specifically on freshwater ecosystems and the impact of climate change on these systems, including pollution prevention and ecosystem restoration.


Holly is the seventh Auggie to earn this prestigious award. Today on the blog, we caught up with her to learn more about how she became interested in her research field, what the process of applying for the Goldwater was like, and where she’s going next.


What led you to first apply for research at Augsburg? Did you have experience with research in high school?


I first applied for research when I was a first year because I really liked biology, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do with a biology degree. I started asking around for summer work hoping to find something that I enjoyed. Dr. Emily Schilling was one of the professors who taught my AugSem and my second semester of introductory biology, so I approached her to talk about research. She told me that her summer project was dealing with a rare dragonfly species and that we would be doing field work instead of lab work like most URGO students. Even though I didn’t know much about insects, the thought of getting to spend my summer outdoors was really nice, so I decided to apply and try something new. I had never done research before, but I thought I would try it out to see if this was maybe my calling.


How have your research experiences changed the way you approach your academic courses?


My research has taught me to pay attention to detail while keeping the big picture in mind. It has also taught me that sometimes even great ideas don’t work out, so you just have to keep trying. The lessons that I have learned in research have helped keep me going when classes get tough because I remind myself to keep trying, even if the material is difficult. Research has also taught me that collaborating with other students can be very helpful. The more people you have, the more brain power you have, and it is especially nice to have people to bounce ideas off of. I’m lucky to be able to work with other amazing Auggies in my research, because they have all taught me a lot. This has led me to want to partner with others when working difficult homework assignments. When we work together, we not only get to learn with the people we’re working with, we also get to teach them what we know.








Explain the process of working on your Goldwater application. Were there departments, groups, clubs, or activities at Augsburg that made a difference in your thinking or assisted with your app?


When working on the Goldwater Application, I worked very closely with the URGO office, particularly with Dixie and Kirsten. I would turn in drafts for them to look at and they would either email me feedback or I would meet with them in person. I turned in about 5 or more drafts — I honestly lost count. Dixie and Kirsten read through every one, telling me where I should elaborate, what could be cut out (because every question had a word limit), and what needed to change. With every revision I saw my application get better and better, and they helped me tell my story. I also worked closely with my research mentor, Dr. Emily Schilling. Emily helped me write the required essay. We were limited to three pages, including figures and references, and I had to write about a research proposal or a past project. I chose to write about the research I did during the summer of 2017 where we studied the phenology of the Canada Darner dragonfly. Emily helped me cut the essay down to the appropriate length in a way that all of my thoughts could still be included. I’m very grateful for everyone that gave me feedback so I could improve my application!


What was the most challenging part of your application, and how did you meet that challenge?


The most challenging part of the application for me was explaining my future goals in detail. Although I am very confident that I want to go on to graduate school for freshwater ecology, I’m still trying to figure out where to go and what specific topic I’d like to study. While working on the application, I had to research on the [biology] programs that different schools offered, and I had to try to be more specific with what I would do in graduate school. I was able to overcome this challenge by talking with Dr. Schilling, Dixie, and Kirsten. They were really good at helping me put all of my big broad ideas into specific sentences. I’m someone who likes to hear how things sound out loud, so I was able to answer the questions when describing my goals to these three much more clearly than when I was typing them on my own. I also took honors junior colloquium this year, and for one of our classes, Dixie and Kirsten came along with some Augsburg seniors who had done applications in the past. Hearing the other students speak about their writing process was helpful.


How has your research informed what you want to do post-Augsburg? Did winning the Goldwater affect any of those plans?


Ever since that first summer after my first year, where I did field work with Dr. Schilling, I’ve been hooked on freshwater ecology. Before I tried research, I thought I might be a pharmacist, but freshwater ecology makes more sense. I love being outdoors! My grandparents have a small cabin that I’ve been visiting since the day I was born. I really love the Midwest, and Minnesota in particular. We are so lucky to have so many beautiful lakes and rivers to visit. When I learned that I can do research and apply my biology knowledge to learning more about freshwater ecosystems and how to protect them, I knew it was my vocation. My research has shown me what I want to study in graduate school. I previously thought that I would go on to get my masters, but after going through the whole application process and winning the award, I believe that I want to get my PhD. I love research and couldn’t think of a better job for myself. It can be discouraging to be told that I should be pursuing a career in the medical sciences instead of working on protecting the environment. However, I know how important it is to study freshwater, especially in Minnesota. We rely on freshwater for drinking water, recreation, transportation, agriculture and so much more. We need people to study freshwater ecosystems because these ecosystems are precious, fragile and in need of protection, and that’s exactly what I want to do.


What advice do you have for current Auggies who are considering summer research or graduate school?


I’d advise them to go for it! Don’t let your fear of rejection stop you from trying. If your application isn’t picked for something one year, don’t be afraid to apply next year! We are blessed with such kind and knowledgeable faculty, so get to know them. Ask them what they study and what sorts of projects they have available to work on. Ask them about their experience with graduate school and for tips on how to apply. Our faculty are so great, but they can’t help you if they don’t know you and if you don’t ever meet with them. Even if you have no idea what you want to do with your degree, they can help point you in the right direction. Also, don’t be afraid to try something new, you may absolutely love it! Before I started research I didn’t know anything about dragonflies, and now I consider them to be my favorite animal. I even spent my last Saturday at a dragonfly ID workshop for fun because I find them to be so interesting! But I wouldn’t have ever known if I never tried. I’d also recommend using the great resources on campus such as the URGO Office and the Strommen Center to learn about research opportunities on and off campus and other jobs and internships, too.

Focus on Fulbright: Rachel Frantz ‘17, Malaysia

Rachel Franz

If you were searching Augsburg for a future marine biology PhD student or a future Fulbright English Teaching Assistant, you might first look in Hagfors, the Science Hall, or Lindell Library. Rachel Frantz ’17 is a biology department alum now pursuing both of those dreams, but you could find her all over campus in her time as an Auggie. Not only did she study and tutor in Lindell and the Science Hall, Rachel also led the lacrosse and cross country teams as a captain in the Kennedy Center, sang with the choir in the Anderson Music Hall, represented her class as part of student government in Christensen, and threw mugs and sculptures as an avid ceramics student the Old Main studio.


When it came time to make post-graduate plans, then, it makes sense that she wanted to keep her options open.

Rachel is currently overseas in Sarawak, Malaysia as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA), but from September through December of 2017, she completed her first semester as a graduate student in marine biology at the University of Southern California (USC). We caught up with her to ask a few questions about how she decided on and pursued these paths and what advice she has for other Auggies on their way.

What led you to apply for Fulbright? For your PhD? Why both at the same time?

I applied for Fulbright after Kirsten emailed me about the program the summer before my senior year. To be honest, I had not even considered applying! I figured a program that involves teaching English abroad would only be interested in people obtaining education degrees or English degrees. My sights were set solely on grad school. I knew I wanted to continue my education in animal sciences and I was ecstatic to finally decide on marine biology.

The staff in the URGO office encouraged me to apply to anything I thought might be a good opportunity. Even if this meant twice the work, I am so glad they pushed me to apply. I first heard of my grad school acceptance and cried tears of joy in my biochem lab. A FUTURE! WOO! I figured the Fulbright application was pointless and debated quitting the app several times, but here I am, writing this interview from a small coffee shop in Sarawak, Malaysia.

Explain the process of working on your applications. Were there departments, groups, clubs, or activities at Augsburg that made a difference in your thinking or assisted with your app?

The grad school apps were all relatively similar. Each required a personal statement and often one other essay along with general academic information. With PhD programs, you have to first secure an “in” with a professor at your desired school, so start reaching out early! I had several phone conversations before I sent in any applications. Fulbright was similar but allowed for more expression of personality rather than academics.

URGO was the greatest resource for me throughout the application process, but my professors (namely biology professors) were equally as supportive. Everyone I asked was happy to help write a letter of recommendation and a few offered to help read through my essays for grad school.

Rachel Franz with students

What was the most challenging part of your application, and how did you meet that challenge?

Finding a voice for myself through my writing was the most difficult part. I am not a writer. I completed a college-credit writing course in high school, so as a biology major at Augsburg, I wasn’t required to take a single English class. Writing about myself was the most challenging aspect of the applications for grad school and for Fulbright. I spent many hours with Kirsten and Dixie in the URGO office going through my INCREDIBLY rough drafts. All of the URGO staff was encouraging and helpful throughout this stressful process. Their goal is to help you best articulate yourself for the job/school/fellowship you are applying for. I would not have finished my essays on time if I hadn’t had their help (and deadlines!).

What does your typical day look like in Sarawak? How does this compare to your typical day in the Marine Biology department at USC?

There is no such thing as a “typical” day in Sarawak, Malaysia! I am currently serving my ETA year in Bintulu, Sarawak, which is an oil and gas town of about 170,000 people. My school, Sekolah Menegah Kebangsaan (SMK) Bintulu, is the largest secondary school in all of Malaysia with a whopping 3,500 students. My day starts at about 6:00 am when I wake up and head to school. Classes begin for the older students at 6:30 a.m. I teach a couple of classes in the morning, help out with field hockey practice, and have lunch in the school canteen when the older students head home at 12:30 pm. Cue the influx of the younger students. I then teach a few classes in the afternoon before track practice. I’ve loved getting involved with the co-curriculum activities here! I coach track, field hockey, and netball (like basketball with ultimate frisbee rules), along with helping the debate team and the choir. After sweating through my baju kurung (teaching dress), I finally head home around 6:30 pm. My roommate and I drive to get some dinner at a local food stall where we share our crazy stories from the day. I love the constant curve balls thrown at me here in Malaysia!

As a PhD student at USC, my day began with a 6:00 am commute via the train and my bike. I then headed to my TA class lecture before running across campus to my oceanography class. After struggling to understand the content, I went to the lab to teach introductory biology lab. To finish out the day, I ran up three flights of stairs to my advisor’s lab to take care of my sea anemones! By then, the sun had set and it is time to hit up one of the three gyms on campus. I would go to water polo practice to de-stress from the day before biking home, stopping at Subway on the way where the sandwich artist knows my order. My brain was constantly exercised here as my classes challenged me each day!

How has your semester at USC informed your Fulbright ETA? How do you think spending a year in Malaysia will influence the rest of your time at grad school, and beyond?

Being a grad student at USC honestly showed me how much a needed a gap year. I put a lot of pressure on myself to go to grad school right away for financial reasons. I do not regret jumping straight into my PhD program, but I am very thankful for this Fulbright year away from 1) school, 2) the states, and 3) a culture focused on individual success. Teaching in Malaysia solidifies my passion for teaching, and I do want to continue my education with the dream of becoming a professor, but I don’t know if I will be going back immediately upon return to the states.

In all honesty, I will not be going back to USC. I want to shift my focus within marine biology to a different topic that will be best studied at a different school, which means I will be applying all over again! The culture at USC is also very different than that at Augsburg, and I don’t see myself thriving in that setting. Being away from the US has forced me to really assess what I am passionate about and how I want to carry myself in this world. USC taught me a lot about what to expect from a grad program, but it also showed me what I want to avoid when applying for a different grad program.

What advice do you have for current Auggies who are considering Fulbright or graduate school, or who may be split on their plans?

For Fulbright: Do it. Though Fulbright is a big name, apply anyway. They want a diverse group of humans representing the US and serving as global ambassadors. Especially as someone who did not get the chance to study abroad, this program is well run, well known, and I’ve made amazing friends here from US and from Malaysia. Exploring another culture by working in the community is an excellent way to learn. I cannot express how grateful I am for this program.

For grad school: Do it. Though USC is ultimately not the right fit for me, I now have a better idea of what to expect. If you think you may have even a 1% chance in getting accepted to a program, apply (I got rejected from 3 of my 4)! You may regret not applying, but I’ve found I don’t regret trying!

Final word of advice: It’s OK to not know what you want to do or to be unsure if your decision is the correct choice for you. You can ALWAYS change your path.

Interested in applying for graduate school or for a Fulbright grant? Make an appointment in the URGO office today, located in the Hagfors Center, Suite 100. You may also keep up with Rachel’s adventures by following her blog, https://shipmetosarawak.wordpress.com. Rachel Franz with a group of students

Summer Research Spotlight: African American Military Service in WWII

The URGO Summer Research Program is an 11-week, on-campus program where students are funded to conduct research with a faculty mentor. Students receive support throughout the research process from their faculty mentor, a Speaker Series, and weekly seminars with fellow researchers.Photo of Grant Berg

Grant Berg, a Pre-law Political Science and History double-major with a minor in Communication Studies, conducted research with Dr. Michael Lansing in the summer of ‘17. Dr. Lansing and Berg looked into the history of the St. Paul Rondo community during the early to late 1940’s and the African American men and women who served in the armed forces. Grant shares his summer research experience below.

My research was initially going to focus only on the Montford Point Marines, the first black Marine Corps Non-Commissioned Officers that were recruited for WWII. This piqued my interest especially because the Marine Corps had a 200-year ban on African American men from joining the program. Other branches of the armed forces also blocked African American men from combat roles. To broaden the scope of the research, my mentor Dr. Michael Lansing, chair of the Department of History here at Augsburg, suggested we look more into every branch of the military at the time, and to narrow the research to the St. Paul Rondo community. That gave me the amazing opportunity to go into the archives of the Minnesota Historical Society and examine the oral histories of black veterans from the community who either grew up or lived in the Rondo community.

I stumbled upon many interesting finds in the piles, such as correspondence between a Minneapolis military chaplain, turned civilian pastor, and a young U.S. House representative from Texas named Lyndon B. Johnson. Other finds were the seemingly forgotten effort by the Navy and Army Surgeon General to impose a rule against black people from donating blood for the war effort. This was called out by the African American press, who utilized science to disprove the argument that black blood and white blood could not be mixed.

Because racial bias and discrimination drive many current issues, we have to talk about and preserve this nation’s history when it comes to minority groups and their push for basic freedoms that other citizens enjoy. 

Throughout this experience I learned how to be a more informed leader about the communities around me, how the historical injustices of the past directly impact us today, and how to use historical knowledge to change things today. Through this I can be a better student here at Augsburg as well as a better ally to those struggling for justice.

Grant Berg is an honors student who takes pride in cultivating a productive campus environment through community service and political activism. Grant is currently Honors House Hesser co-president, and an intern with the Amy Klobuchar for Minnesota re-election campaign.

The information packet and application for URGO Summer Research are now posted on the URGO website. Now is the time to get started!

If you have any questions about the research program or the application, please contact us at urgo@augsburg.edu.


Summer Research Spotlight: Diversity in MN Book Awards

Photo of Gabe BensonThe URGO Summer Research Program is an 11-week, on-campus program where students are funded to conduct research with a faculty mentor. Students receive support throughout the research process from their faculty mentor, a Speaker Series, and weekly seminars with fellow researchers.

Gabe Benson conducted research this past summer under the mentorship of English Professor, Sarah Groeneveld.  Gabe shares his reflections on his summer research experience below.

What was your project?

My project focused on fifty Minnesota Book Award-winning novels and how they were (and were not) representative of diversity by comparing it to Census data of Minnesota. I read twenty-five adults novels and twenty-five young adult novels and kept track of primary characters, secondary characters, and tertiary characters. I then kept a list of the gender, race, and sexual identity of these characters.

What did you learn?

I learned that, in most cases, the novels greatly represent minority groups. This was the case for black, Latino, Native American, and LGBTQIA+ people. Women and Asians were both underrepresented.

How did this project help you grow and develop academically?

Reading such a large number of novels in such a short amount of time was immensely gratifying. I feel like I am now more aware of character diversity in the books that I read and how those characters are (or are not) reflective of the diversity of society around me. Also, being held accountable was challenging but gratifying. Working on my own most days was a new experience for me, and I definitely grew from it.

What would you like to see happen with your research?

I would like to continue exploring certain facets of my research (e.g. intersectionality, author identity, etc.) and also continue the research as each year of the awards gives new awards for fiction and young adult fiction. I would like to one day get it published.

What was the hardest part? The easiest?

The hardest part was the point in my research experience where I was faced with a mountain of data from fifty novels, and I needed to turn it into a thesis. That was very intimidating, but it was very gratifying to see it come to fruition. The easiest part was getting to read all day as a full-time job. Reading is my favorite activity, so it was a pretty awesome experience to have gotten paid to read novels all summer.

What advice would you give Social Sciences, Humanities, and the Arts (SSHA) summer researchers?

My advice to SSHA students is that you will need an overly specific grant proposal. Four-hundred hours in ten weeks may seem plausible to tackle a topic, but I think SSHA students need to focus on how their research idea can fill eight hours in a day. I can propose that I will study Beethoven’s symphonies as my topic, and that could fill 400 hours, but what will you be doing those eight hours of your work day? Will you be listening to music for eight hours? Probably not. You need a plan for each day that is realistic and reachable. You can make a research proposal looking at something that you love, but it can sound plausible to fill 400 hours with something you love, but those eight hours can often be daunting when you begin the day. For me, I read a whole novel each day. This is not something everyone can do, but I went to different libraries, different coffee shops, and different spaces to shake things up and keep me active so I wouldn’t be sitting in my house all day. It may seem hard to make such a detailed plan for your research, but I think it is necessary.

Please join us at one of URGO Summer Research Information Sessions to learn more about the program, hear from past summer researchers, and get the inside scoop on the application process.

Tuesday, November 28th @3:30 in the Marshall Room

Wednesday, November 29th @6pm in OGC 100

Interview conducted by Grant Berg

Star Tribune Article On Augsburg Alum and Rhodes Scholar Brian Krohn

Check out this Star Tribune article on Augsburg Alum Brian Krohn; the article talks about his legacy at Augsburg and Oxford, and what he is doing now. Way to go Brian!

St. Paul inventor Brian Krohn combats snoring, creates wizard tools

From wizard staffs and surgery tools to sleep apps, this Minnesota genius applies science to real life 
Photo of Brian Krohn

St. Paul inventor Brian Krohn has developed brain surgery tools, pioneered biodiesel innovations and briefed members of Congress on how to turn waste oils into energy. But the young serial entrepreneur with some impressive academic credentials also does lots of not-so-serious stuff, like an analysis of the safest place to survive a zombie apocalypse (answer: Borneo). Or writing a 10,000-word essay on “the perfect food unit”: a nine-ingredient “inexpensive, convenient and environmentally friendly” burrito that Krohn ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner for six months while he was writing his doctoral theses.

He’s CWO (Chief Wizard Officer) for a startup that will make “a wizard staff that actually does wizard stuff.” Like shoot flames. Or spew fog. Now, Krohn, 31, is launching a cellphone app called Soundly. Developed with funding from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, it’s designed to help people who snore by getting them to play a voice-activated game that will strengthen the muscles in their upper airway. Colleagues and mentors have described Krohn as a “renaissance talent.” But the former Rhodes Scholar also embodies a typical Minnesotan vibe: enthusiastic, but unassuming. Earnest, but sometimes a bit goofy. Like his search for the perfect food that led to an unpleasant experiment in a “sardine-based fish bread.”

Oh, he also wants to create million-dollar companies from scratch, particularly if that involves “identifying needs and giving people value” using science and technology. “You can do it for snoring and magic wizard staffs and brain surgery,” he said. In a way, Krohn is still the same curious, creative kid who grew up in Cloquet making go-carts, potato cannons, trebuchets and claymation videos. Except now his inventions are being supported by government grants, academic fellowships and crowdfunding.

“He’s just one of those people who are naturally innovative,” said Davis Fay, an engineer working with Krohn on the Magic Wizard Staff project.

“He follows unmet needs,” said Steven Thomalla, another engineering colleague. “Brian is not biased in what he might work on. His next project might be in space development.”

Scientific silliness

Krohn’s path to becoming a useful mad scientist started when he switched from majoring in film to chemistry while at Augsburg College in Minneapolis. His undergraduate research on producing biodiesel from waste oils contributed to a new process developed (with the help of an Augsburg chemistry professor and an alum) to produce fuel in a cleaner, more environmentally friendly way. Krohn appeared on “Good Morning America” to talk about the process, which was commercialized in the development of a $9 million pilot plant in Isanti, Minn. Also while at Augsburg, Krohn founded the Augsburg Honors Review, a place for undergraduates to publish their research papers. And he started the Agre Challenge, named after Peter Agre, an Augsburg alum and winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize in chemistry. The Agre Challenge was a contest to see who could build a machine that would fling a three-pound sandbag various distances. Krohn went on to become the first Augsburg student to win a Rhodes scholarship, studying environmental policy and the philosophy of science at Oxford University. After which he developed Cycle Coach, an app with 80,000 users that provides audio of instructors to lead users through indoor cycling workouts.

Next stop was a doctorate in environmental science from the University of Minnesota. But he also found time to co-found Mighty Axe Hops, a 2015 joint venture that raised $4.6 million in financing and resulted in one of the largest hops farms in the Midwest.

“I like beer, and I like entrepreneurship,” said Krohn, who also taught beer brewing and recruited guest lecturers for a course he created at Augsburg on the art, history and science of brewing.

From wizardry to surgery

While at Oxford, he married Kari Aanestad, a fellow Augsburg student who he met during freshman year. They now have a 16-month-old daughter, “the best project of all,” Krohn said. His latest project, the Soundly app, was started while he was an Innovation Fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Medical Devices Center.

That’s where he also worked on a new tool that uses electrical sensors to allow a surgeon to precisely tell the difference between healthy and cancerous brain tissue. In between developing new medical devices, he created a Halloween prop, a wizard’s staff that uses compressed air to shoot out puffed cheese balls. Some engineers at the Medical Devices Center were so impressed with the gadget that they decided to start a company with Krohn, selling wizard staffs.

“We don’t have a background in the magic wizard staff space,” said Thomalla, lab supervisor at the Medical Devices Center. Still, he’s been moonlighting with Krohn to build fog and flame spewing prototypes with names like the Chaos Staff. Their startup company has gotten about 2,500 likes on Facebook from live-action role playing enthusiasts, cosplay fans and renaissance festival attendees who collect wizard staffs.

“A lot of times I get a little bug about something,” Krohn said of his diverse ventures. “I kind of just do things and see where they go.”

Meet the 2017-2018 Fulbright Scholars


Photo of Dustin ParksDustin Parks ‘17

  • B.A. in Economics and Finance
  • 2016 URGO Summer Researcher with Dr. Stella Hofrenning in Economics
  • Mayo Innovations Scholar
  • Fluent in Spanish

Traveling to Peru to conduct research on entrepreneurial education.

Dustin’s project will investigate the strengths and limitations of entrepreneurial coursework at the secondary level in the national, Peruvian education. He plans to use his experiences as a Fulbright Scholar to pursue a PhD in economics after his time in Peru.




Photo of Hannah SchmitHannah Schmit ‘17

  • B.A. in Sociology and Religion
  • Minor in Biology
  • 2015 & 2016 summer research assistant with Dr. James Vela-McConnell in Sociology
  • Honors Program graduate
  • Choir member

Traveling to Czech Republic to be an English Teaching Assistant.

Hannah plans to engage with the Czech community with her musical skills and through volunteer work at a community outreach center. On her return, she plans to pursue a master’s in Public Health or Administration.



Photo of Hannah FreyHannah Frey ‘15

  • B.A. in ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­International Relations and History
  • Honors Program graduate
  • Currently employed by AmeriCorps as a Digital Literacy Coordinator
  • Fluent in Korean

Traveling to South Korea to be an English Teaching Assistant.

Hannah plans to connect with the community by speaking their language and participating in dance and cooking classes. After her time in Korea, she plans on enrolling in a graduate program for International Affairs or Foreign Service and then working for the State Department of the United States.




Photo of Rachel FrantzRachel Frantz ‘17

  • B.S. in Biology
  • 2014-2015 academic-year researcher with Dr. Kevin Potts in Biology
  • Two sport athlete (lacrosse and cross country), captain, and coach
  • Choir member
  • Also accepted to PhD in Marine Biology at USC-Los Angeles (full-ride)

Traveling to Malaysia to be an English Teaching Assistant.

Rachel plans to bring her skills from tutoring, coaching, and docenting and her passion for the environment into the classroom. She will attend six months of graduate school, teach for a year in Malaysia and then return to her PhD studies.

On Campus Research- Learn More about the Opportunities Available for SSHA majors interested in Research!

The URGO Summer Research Program is an 11-week, on-campus program where students are funded to conduct research with a faculty mentor. Students receive support throughout the research process from their faculty mentor, a Speaker Series, and weekly seminars with fellow researchers.


Chau Nguyen ’17 is an Accounting and Management double major who conducted research with Dr. Walley in the summer ‘15. Nguyen’s research was focused on understanding monetary policy shock in emerging economies with a focus on Brazil. Nguyen is an active member of the Augsburg Community, serving as Vice President of the International Student Organization ’14-’15, as well as being a strong academic student.

It is not uncommon for students to struggle with the decision of when they want to partake in research and why they may be interested in it. “I went to the Orientation and was inspired by the success stories of many students who have done research before. At the time, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study, but after speaking to my advisor, she thought I should apply for the experience and to figure out what I’m interested in in the process. It was a great opportunity to obtain new skills, such as researching, and data collection that have become extremely helpful for my academic career.”

Research may be a challenging experience. The process of choosing a project you are interested in, as well as the process of learning to ask the right questions, and learning to work independently can often be a daunting aspect. However, it doesn’t come without benefits. “We had weekly meetings where we talked about our progress and findings. I loved it because it’s the only time I get to sit with a group of peers and talk about the project (most of the time I worked on my own, which is different from STEM). I also developed a strong relationship with my research mentor. As the project progressed, Dr. Walley got to know me as a student, as well as, as a person. This relationship has been pivotal in honing down where my passions lie. Having a chance like this to do something you are interested in or passionate about is a great experience that you can’t easily get later on in your career.”

Nguyen participated in the URGO Summer Research in the Summer of 2015, and proceeded to work in the accounting department as an Intern at a local Minneapolis company. “The on-campus research experience was invaluable. It gave me applicable skills that I can use in other courses, as well as better equipped me for my future career. Interestingly enough, it influenced me to switch my major to Accounting. I’m applying for my Master in Accountancy and will continue to use the skills that I learned during research in future work.

We, the Augsburg Community wish Chau the best as she prepares for graduation and the next steps in her career!

URGO provides full-time summer researchers (400 hours) with a $4,000 stipend and housing discount while half-time researchers (200 hours) receive a $2,000 stipend. The program runs from May 15th – July 28th.
URGO also provides funding for students to work for a professor as a research assistant on an ongoing research project. This is a 100-hour commitment over the course of the summer and comes with a $1,000 stipend. This is an excellent opportunity to try out research for the first time or focus on a specific aspect of a research project.
Phase 1 of the applications are due February 1st!

URGO applications for 2017 summer research are now available on the URGO website at www.augsburg.edu/urgo.

All fields of study welcome! If you have any questions, email us at urgo@augsburg.edu.

The URGO office is located on the first floor of the Science building, SCI 152.


On-campus Research- Learn more about Auggie who participated and thrived in on campus research!

The URGO Summer Research Program is an 11-week, on-campus program where students are funded to conduct research with a faculty mentor. Students receive support throughout the research process from their faculty mentor, a Speaker Series, and weekly seminars with fellow researchers.


Ellie Peters ’18 is a Chemistry major and Biology minor who conducted research with Dr. Wentzel in the summer ‘16. Peters’ research focus was broadly in Organic Chemistry. After enrolling and excelling in Organic Chemistry, Dr. Wentzel and Ellie made a connection. “It turned out that we were both thinking that I might be a good addition to his research team for the summer.”

Peters’ is a highly active member of the Augsburg Community. She is both a student athlete as well as a board member of the Augsburg Chemistry Society (ACS) ‘16 and will serve as the President of ACS in the 2017-2018 academic year.

“It is definitely difficult to balance a rigorous academic schedule with jobs, volunteering, and other commitments. Adding research into that list stretched me pretty thin, but I can’t think of anything more worth my time. As for a social life, it was already hard to keep up an active social life, but research honestly helped me with this aspect. Not only did I gain valuable, really great relationships with Dr. Wentzel and other professors through research, but I also got to know and become good friends with other student researchers inside and outside of my group. These relationships and friendships have continued to grow long after the summer and I am positive that many will continue for life.” Although it may be a challenging experience, and requires time management skills, summer research experiences have always shown to be both beneficial to forming relationships with professors as well as honing down where ones interests lie beyond ones undergraduate career.

Peters’ conducted research at the end of her sophomore year, and continued with it during the 2016-2017 academic year. “Before doing research, I was planning on applying to medical school. After doing research, I am honestly undecided about what I would like to do. I am still planning on applying to medical school, but am also considering going to graduate school or working in industry and am hoping to have a research aspect in any future possible medical career. What this experience has really influenced regarding my future career goals is that it has made me know that I could be happy following a number of different paths.”

It is important to reach out to professors early on in your academic career in order to build relationships with professors as well as students within your selected major. Such experiences provide a plethora of opportunities beyond on campus research, based primarily on your interests. URGO provides full-time summer researchers (400 hours) with a $4,000 stipend and housing discount while half-time researchers (200 hours) receive a $2,000 stipend. The program runs from May 15th – July 28th.
URGO also provides funding for students to work for a professor as a research assistant on an ongoing research project. This is a 100-hour commitment over the course of the summer and comes with a $1,000 stipend. This is an excellent opportunity to try out research for the first time or focus on a specific aspect of a research project.
Phase 1 of the applications are due February 1st, so start talking with your faculty before break to learn about what research is going on in your department!

URGO applications for 2017 summer research are now available on the URGO website at www.augsburg.edu/urgo. All fields of study welcome! If you have any questions, email us at urgo@augsburg.edu. The URGO office is located on the first floor of the Science building, SCI 152.



                                                                                                                                            Wentzel research ‘16 research team