University Communications

ACCESS STEM next steps

ACCESS STEM student goes on to study Marine Biology

Since walking across the Commencement stage this May, Kassidy Lange is planning her next steps at South Carolina where she will pursue a master’s in Marine Biology.

Lange is the first person in her family to earn a bachelor’s degree, and she is planning to one day earn a doctorate in the field of biology and work in a government researching job.

Her next stop toward her goal will be Grice Marine Lab at the College of Charleston, where she will discover her passion in biology to decide on what specialty to pursue. Lange also earned admission this spring into the doctoral program in Environmental Toxicology at Texas Tech University, an open invitation if she chooses toxicology as her field after completing her masters.

At. St. Cloud State University, Lange earned the National Science Foundation (NSF) funded Academic Collaboration and Coordination Model to Ensure Student Success in STEM (ACCESS STEM) scholarship, which is providing scholarships and support to 100 students with demonstrated financial need to support more diversity in STEM fields. She came to St. Cloud State with an interest in veterinary science, but found a passion for biology and toxicology while working with Dr. Satomi Kohno in St. Cloud State’s Aquatic Toxicology Lab.

That passion was reinforced when she did wildlife rehabilitation during her summer breaks in Wisconsin and Colorado.

“Lots of animals came in sick and you wouldn’t know why,” she said. “We’d do necropsy to find out, and lots of times it had to do with toxicology — they’d ingest something or swim somewhere and get sick. Being a vet puts a bandage on the problem. I wanted to figure out what is wrong with the animals to prevent it.”

It was in the Aquatic Toxicology Lab where Lange got her first chance to research as an undergraduate student. Her first research project was as part of a study of storm water runoff in Minneapolis that collected 101 samples to look for DNA from humans or house pets to look for evidence of sewer breaks or road runoff.

This year, she applied for and received a College of Science and Engineering grant to begin a study of estrogenic contaminants and rising temperature effects on snapping turtles in Minnesota.

Sex in snapping turtles is determined by temperature, not chromosomes as it is in humans, Lange said.

Endocrine disrupters can result in more female turtles than males and so can rising temperatures. Lange earned the grant and set up the initial phases of the study. She presented a poster on her work this spring at the Huskies Showcase. Other students will continue the research this summer and fall.

“Compared to a lot of students from my high school, I definitely have the most undergraduate research experience,” Lange said. “I think that’s one thing I liked about St. Cloud State is that it gave me opportunities to do undergraduate research. I think that gave me a leg up when looking for graduate schools.”

In addition to conducting research, Lange played soccer and gave tours as a Student Ambassador while attending St. Cloud State.

“The Soccer program taught me a lot both as an athlete and as a person in time management skills, teamwork — all that comes with being a student athlete,” she said. “It’s fun. You get a family at school too.”

ACCESS STEM gave Lange another family in the sciences when she started at St. Cloud State three years ago. The first ACCESS STEM graduate, Nasradin Tahir, graduated in Fall 2020 with a degree in Cybersecurity. He is now working at Medtronic. A third ACCESS STEM student also graduated this spring, Keilen Smith. 

“All the women in my cohort are very intelligent and on the right track to get into whatever they want to do,” she said.

In Biology, Lange found that the majority of students in her classes were women, and she was never treated differently because she was a woman.

“There’s nothing to be afraid of because at this point women are treated equally,” she said. “If you are interested in STEM, and you grew up catching frogs like me, go for it, because it pays off. You want to do a job that you love waking up every day to do instead of something that you have to do, work that you dread.”

 

About ACCESS STEM

The ACCESS STEM scholarship program is funded by the National Science Foundation and supports students with financial need at St. Cloud State and three Minnesota State community colleges pursuing STEM majors. The program includes students at St. Cloud State and St. Cloud Technical & Community College, Ridgewater College and Anoka-Ramsey Community College.