Purdue University North Central student Leah Gladkowski looks forward to receiving her Bachelor’s degree in Biology at the PNC May 19 commencement, and she will be ready to embark on a new journey. She will enter Miami University of Ohio to pursue a master’s degree in Botany and she has already been offered and accepted a position as a graduate assistant.
The Wheaton, Ill. resident explained that she knew that she wanted to work with plants since she was in eighth or ninth grade.
“I would like to work with plants in a medicinal way or learn more about how plants are affected by different changes and signals in their environment,” she said. “I would love to do research of some sort either for a company or the government. Ideally I would like to be in the field, working outside half the time and spend the rest of my time in a lab.
Gladkowski came to PNC as a freshman and planned to play softball while earning her Purdue degree. “After my first year at PNC I dropped softball and stuck with PNC to earn by degree and stay with the friends I’d met and the great professors and staff members I encountered,” she said.
With classes, studying, an on-campus job and clubs, Gladkowski kept a full schedule. She joined the Ecology Club, English Club and the Improv Club known as the Ranting Llamas. In the summer she will volunteer at the Morton Arboretum.
After spending a few years as the Improv Club director, she admits that some of her favorite times at PNC have come during rehearsals and performances.
“I joined the club because a lot my friends were in it,” she recalled. “I thought it would be fun to do. I never had an intention of ever going on stage. Originally, I wanted to be the secretary or treasurer, but those positions were taken. I was encouraged to go on stage and before I knew it I was a regular performer. The experience helped me be less nervous about public speaking. Being in charge of the club taught me lessons on what it takes to be a leader, how to organize events and the challenge of working with several strong personalities.”
With her family living in Illinois, Gladkowski has learned to live on her own. She returns home when she can and stays close with her family.
“My parents and family keep me focused and encourage me to do well,” she said. “I have a good group of friends who make sure I never take myself too seriously. I count on my friend Dan to call when I need to talk about random things.”
She credits the PNC Biology Department faculty for their invaluable support.
“They are so enthused about what they teach, they draw you into the subject matter. They are willing to talk to you outside of class to help you succeed.
“Dr. Chris Holford, dean of the College of Science, and Dr. April Nesbit, visiting assistant Professor of Microbiology, helped me find different ways to study and gave me valuable advice.
“Dr. Mitchell Alix, associate professor of Biology, made the subject matter of an intro to Botany class so interesting that it confirmed my desire to go into the field of Botany. He helped me find universities that are a good fit for a master’s in Botany.”
She noted that Dr. Jerry Holt, assistant professor of English, “has a way of weaving his lectures with class material with life lessons. He does it in a way that seems like he is reciting soliloquies.”
Gladkowski and three other students worked on a research project studying changes in protein levels in the hemolymph of crayfish that had their eye stocks oblated. Their work was published by the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology.
“Even though we were studying for tough classes, some of my study groups were really fun,” said Gladkowski.
“PNC is a great place because you have a one on one experience with your professors. Your professors actually know your name and who you are, that makes it easy for them to help you. The professors are passionate about their work and know their subject matter.”