MCAT Preparation Insights: Randy Krug, ’10, Mayo Clinic School of Medicine M.D. Candidate

Randy Krug received his B.S. in Biology from Augsburg in 2010. During his time here he deliberated between graduate school and medical school, ultimately discovering through his two URGO-funded research experiences that his interests lay primarily in research at the time. However, after completing a PhD in biomedical studies from the Mayo Clinic he decided to pursue his original passion and applied for medical school in 2017, when he was accepted to the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine. We asked Randy how he prepared for taking the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) after his many years of schooling.
Photo of Randy Krug


How many hours did you study?

I would guess approximately 700 hours.


How far in advance did you start to study?

About 34 weeks.


What was your study plan?

It was a self-designed, three-phase study plan that required 3-4 hours of studying per day: The first phase was about 18 weeks long. During that time I used the Kaplan 7 subject review. I went through the science subject books (bio, biochem, chem, o-chem, physics, & behavioral) one at a time, allowing about 3 weeks to get through each one. Each day I would begin by reviewing all the flashcards I made for the science subject I was currently studying. I would then read the next subsection, convert everything into flashcards, and solve the problems for that subsection (adding flashcards as needed). There were some days off, and some days just dedicated to studying flashcards. The flashcards for each science subject were not carried over once the 3 weeks were up, rather they were put aside so I could focus on one science subject at a time. The second phase was about 10 weeks long. At this point all 6 science subject books had been converted into flashcards. During this phase I went through the flashcards for each science subject again, allowing about 2 weeks per subject. About half the study time each day would be dedicated to reviewing flashcards that were made for the science subject I was currently studying in those 2 weeks. The other half of the study time would be dedicated to solving problems. In addition to going through the Kaplan 7 subject review problems again, I used Princeton resources and the AAMC section question bank. The third phase was about 6 weeks long. Every Saturday leading up to the exam I completed a full-length practice exam. The exam would be completed in one sitting in order to simulate the real exam. Additionally, I planned out a food and drink schedule for the real exam that was optimized during the practice tests. Every Sunday leading up to the exam I reviewed the full-length practice exam that had been completed the preceding day. Monday-Friday were usually dedicated to doing more flashcards and solving problems. Again, about half the study time each day would be dedicated to reviewing flashcards. The other half of study time would be dedicated to solving problems. The problems during this phase were focused just on the behavioral sciences and CARS. There is really nothing to memorize for the CARS section, so I did any many passages/problems as possible. During the last 2 weeks of this phase I studied flashcards around 8-10 hours per day.


Did you take an exam prep course?

I did not take any course to prepare for the exam. I used the Kaplan 7 subject review.


Did you focus on learning content or test-taking strategies?

I focused on learning content with flashcards and solving problems.


How many practice exams did you take? Were those scores similar to your actual score?

A total of 5 full-length practice exams. I started with the 4 exams that were provided by Kaplan, and finished with the one AAMC practice exam that was available at the time. The first score was around 505, and each subsequent score was equal to or greater than the last. The score I received on the AAMC practice exam matched the score of the real exam (519).

Meet the Auggie Fulbright Scholars: Madeleine Oswood ’18

Madeleine Oswood with llamaThe quietly wise Madeleine Oswood just graduated a few weeks ago, but studying at Augsburg was just the start of her adventure. She studied Mathematics and Spanish, graduated with summa cum laude distinction, and in September will be in Gijon, a city in the Asturias region of Spain teaching English as a Fulbright Scholar. Amidst sorting out her visa at the Capital for the coming year, she sat down and chatted with us about her placement, what she’s excited to experience, and philosophized on being a Fulbright.

Asturias lies in the northern portion of the country; it is a coastal province on the Bay of Biscay, facing France. According to Oswood, the Fulbright program in the area is relatively small, and still very new. “I’m one of 14 Fulbright Scholars going to Asturias this year, and I’ll be part of the second cohort ever,” she said. “It feels like I’m helping forge a bond between Asturias and Fulbright.”

“While in Spain, I hope to travel a lot and improve my Spanish,” said Oswood, who has had an interest in travel since she was very young. She told us about how she used to watch travel shows and Discovery Channel documentaries on faraway places and owned a collection of travel encyclopedias which she perused as a child.

Madeleine Oswood

Oswood has extensively practiced her everyday Spanish skills. “My mom speaks Spanish, and the town I grew up in has a high Spanish-speaking population.  I started learning in high school, but I only did it because I wanted to go on the class trip to Spain,” she said. “In Spain, though, I fell in love with the language.” “I’m looking forward to experiencing the country without a tour group.”

While attending Augsburg, Oswood spent a semester in Argentina, living in Buenos Aires with a host mom who didn’t speak English. “The experience made me get over the embarrassment of asking people to repeat themselves, and I got really good at using the polite form of ‘what?’”

“When I was hiking in Patagonia, I actually stopped taking pictures. Instead, I said to myself, ‘I’m going to remember this moment,’ and took a mental snapshot. I plan to do the same in Spain: just enjoy moments as they happen.”

On the whole experience of being named a Fulbright Scholar, Oswood said, “It feels like a dream.”  “I didn’t think it was a possibility and I didn’t want to bank on it. I keep thinking about how if I told myself in my freshman year of high school that I’d be moving to Spain in the future, I wouldn’t have believed it. But I’m excited. I love kids, volunteering, and I’m hoping to form relationships with students and show them what the U.S. is, explain its politics, and show a different face of the U.S. than what most people know.”

To others thinking about starting the application, Oswood encourages putting in the time, “I actually enjoyed writing the statements, even though I rewrote many drafts with the help of the URGO office. With Fulbright and summa, both felt like a nice bookmark where I got to look at all of the experiences Augsburg has given me. I thought about how my life looked thus far and helped me organize trajectories for the future.”

Be sure to keep up with the blog to hear about Madeleine and the other Fulbrighters!

Meet the 2018-2019 Fulbright Scholars

This was a banner year for successful applicants. Six newly-appointed Fulbright Scholars will work in Africa and Europe.

2018-2019 Fulbright winners


(From left to right):

Lyle Nyberg ‘18

  • B.S. in Biology, Chemistry, and Mathematics
  • Minor in Physics
  • 2015 Goldwater Scholar
  • 2013 Summer Lindstom Scholar, researching with Dr. Vivian Feng in Chemistry
  • Honors Program graduate

Traveling to Zambia to study malaria transmission.

Lyle will be working with the Southern and Central Africa International Center of Excellence for Malaria Research in Zambia to determine how public spaces in the Macha region contribute to transmission of the disease. When Lyle returns, he plans to enter a doctoral program in molecular biology with interest in the molecular evolution of infectious systems.


Madeleine Oswood ‘18

  • B.A. in Mathematics
  • 2016 to 2018 researcher with John Zobitz in Mathematics
  • Studied abroad in Argentina
  • Mathematics tutor
  • Honors Program graduate

Traveling to Spain as an English Teaching Assistant.

Madeleine was placed in the city of Gijon in the Asturias region of Spain.  She plans to engage with her host community by creating an after-school art club to teach both U.S and Spanish art history.  After this year, she intends to become an actuary for a company with international connections.


Jubilee Prosser ‘18

  • B.S. in Biology
  • Minors in Public Policy/Political Change and Environmental Studies
  • 2015 Summer Researcher with Emily Schilling in Biology
  • Critical Language Scholar studying Swahili in Tanzania
  • Honors Program graduate

Traveling to Kenya to study at-home water purification.

Jubilee will spend this year studying the barriers to a sense of ownership of at-home purification technologies through surveys, interviews, and focus groups before and during implementation of community-led water well programs. Upon return, Jubilee will pursue a master’s or doctoral degree in Public Health and hopes to continue studying public health in Kenya.


Blair Stewig ‘18

  • B.A./B.S. in Biology
  • Minors in Chemistry and Environmental Studies
  • 2015 Summer Sundquist Scholar with Dr. Joan Kunz and Dr. Ben Stottrup in Biophysics
  • Two sport athlete (Cross Country and Track), captain
  • Honors Program graduate

Traveling to Poland to conduct research on colorectal cancer.

Blair will investigate possible relationships between inflammatory response and colorectal cancer by studying a protein in cells. Her research will be sponsored by the Miaczynska Laboratory at the International Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology in Warsaw. After this year, Blair plans to pursue a M.D./Ph.D. dual degree in genetics/bioinformatics.


Abigail Tetzlaff ‘18

  • B.A. in English Literature, Language, and Theory
  • Minors in German and Sociology
  • 2016 Summer Researcher with Dr. Douglas Green and Dr. Dallas Liddle in Digital Humanities
  • Editor-in-Chief of the Augsburg Honors Review
  • Honors Program Graduate

Travelling to Germany as an English Teaching Assistant.

Abby was placed in Berlin, Germany, and wants to engage older students and adults in her host community through a weekly book club and conversation table that focuses on U.S and German literature. Upon return, she plans to apply to doctoral programs and study the intersections of 19th century British literature and city planning.


Kaylee Gueltzow ‘17

  • B.A. in Secondary Education and German
  • Studied abroad in Vienna, Austria
  • TEFL certified
  • Augsburg Senior Leadership Society member
  • Honors Program graduate

Traveling to Germany as an English Teaching Assistant.

Placed in Greifswald, Germany, Kaylee plans to organize a book club to build conversation about the United States and have students practice speaking academic English. After, Kaylee plans to spend more years teaching abroad, then continue to teach middle school English. She also plans to gain her Master’s in Education with an emphasis in World Literature.

Focus on Scholarships: Lidiya Ahmed ‘20, Phillips and Rossing Scholar

Since moving to Minnesota and starting school at Augsburg in the Spring of 2017, space physics and mathematics major Lidiya Ahmed ‘20 has been awarded both the Phillips Scholarship for her leadership in community service and the Rossing Scholarship for her outstanding work in the physics field. Lidiya, who grew up in Ethiopia, is also a LEAD fellow who has worked at many different community-based programs, such as Campus Ministry’s Urban Plunge program, Soup for You, and the Campus Kitchens program. She is currently a STEM peer mentor and has worked as a teaching assistant and 3D printing coordinator for the math department. After graduating from Augsburg, she plans to pursue a PhD in space physics.


This week on the URGO blog, we caught up with Lidiya to learn how she decided to apply for the scholarships that have empowered her to pursue her two loves—physics and serving her community.


Briefly define the Rossing and Phillips Scholarships. What led you to first apply for them? 

Lidiya Ahmed

I am actively involved in my community, and I love giving back to my community. I found out about the Phillips Scholars Program—which supports potential leaders with outstanding academic credentials who intend to dedicate a portion of their lives to community service and supports the development and implementation of self-designed service projects to address unmet needs in Minnesota communities—while I was at a LEAD fellows retreat, and I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to work on my own project which is focused on empowering women and minorities in STEM.


The Rossing Physics Scholarship is for physics majors with great academic achievement, and I wanted to get a support system since I face many challenges as a woman majoring in physics. I knew of the connection that you get in the physics field through this scholarship and I wanted to be part of it as I plan to pursue my PhD.


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


Last summer’s biophysics research with Dr. Ben Stottrup was a great experience since I gained skills like programming using high level languages. With five other lab mates, I learned that I liked to work in a team and to solve problems. During our weekly lab presentations, I improved my presentation skills and learned additional physics concepts by reading and presenting articles related to our research. I’m currently working in Dr. Mark Engebretson’s space physics lab studying phenomena that occur at the edges of space–in Earth’s space environment. I have learned through research how to solve problems on my own and how to cooperate with others.


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


I worked with Dixie and Kirsten from URGO office regarding the Rossing scholarship, and they helped me a lot with my application. They spent hours and hours shaping my story and even correcting my grammatical errors. They were really committed and did a great job in putting together all the application materials. All my professors who took their time to write a letter of recommendation for me (both the math and physics departments), the programs that I am part of as a community leader, and the people at the departments that I am involved with played a great role in my applications. I wouldn’t even be able to think about my Phillips project if I weren’t exposed to the problems in the community as I work under the LEAD fellows program and STEM peer mentor program.



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


I had to write a seven page proposal for the Phillips Scholars Program and a three page essay for the Rossing Physics Scholarship, which was the most challenging part of my applications because I didn’t have this kind of experience before. I reached out to many people from different offices to get help with this, including the URGO office, STEM office, physics and math departments, International Students office, Sabo center, and the Pan-Afrikan students office. Everyone that I contacted was willing to help me out with both the supporting materials and the personal statement as well as the proposal. The URGO office also assisted with the Rossing physics scholarship by helping me get my transcriLidiya Ahmedpt, letters of recommendation, and essay on time.


How has winning the Rossing and Phillips awards informed what you want to do post-Augsburg? Has your research affected any of those plans?


I wasn’t sure about what I would do post-Augsburg until I did a summer research and realized that doing research is what I really enjoy. It convinced me to become a research scientist in the future. It was motivating to win the Rossing Physics Scholarship as a physics major, and it encouraged me to keep moving forward to achieve my dreams. I also learned that I should use my knowledge and skills to empower others who haven’t had the opportunity to be in the STEM field like I did. After I became a Phillips Scholar, I met many young people working to meet the needs of their communities  and to bridge the achievement gap.


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


The first thing that I suggest is being active in the campus community and working with the departments in your area of interest. Doing research helps to develop many skills that you don’t learn from your classes, but that will help a lot with your academic courses. It gives you a better understanding of the career path that you want to follow and helps you make connections. Scholarships, awards, and grants give you the relief of not having to worry about paying for your tuition and help you focus on your education even if you don’t get a lot of financial help from your family and school. Reach out to people in your departments and other offices like STEM and URGO office to see if you are eligible for any scholarships. Then, work with them on your application to be present the best story about yourself!

“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:




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

Mike Alves 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.

Holly Kundel

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.

Photo of Holly Kundel with faculty mentor, Emily Schilling, and research poster








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.

Photo of Holly Kundel holding a dragonfly

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, 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


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