Loyola University Chicago

Department of Biology

Biology Boot Camp: Student Comments

Nate Pecoraro -  Junior Biology Student

What were the features of Bio Boot Camp that you found particularly engaging?

I really enjoyed being able to go to the lectures during the boot camp because I was able to get an idea of what to expect and how I could better prepare myself for the first semester of college.  At the time, I knew I would be entering Loyola as a pre-med student, and there were quite a few opportunities to gain insight into what to expect.  Current pre-medical and medical students affiliated with Loyola gave talks about their experiences, and it gave me a better understanding of what I had to do to get there.

Do you feel that it helped you get a more wide-angle perspective of what our Biology curriculum entails?

Definitely.  We received actual lectures on material from multiple professors and even took an exam.  It was very interesting to see what they expected from their students, as well as the differences between college and high school courses. Furthermore, several Biology faculty members gave talks about research opportunities on campus; this is how I got involved in researching the role of the troponin protein in cardiac muscle with Dr. Pickett. 

How do you feel the program prepared you for campus life in general?

It was interesting to get a feel for living in dorms with everyone and having the life of a college student for a few days. A lot of the friends I have today I met in this program; you really get an opportunity to start building relationships with others at Biology Boot Camp.

Overall, how do you feel this program benefited you as a Biology student here at Loyola?

I honestly would not have the level of experience and knowledge I have today  were it not for this program. I never would have met Dr. Pickett, whom I currently do research with, nor would I have acquired some of the knowledge about the pre-med track that I have today.  Dr. Helfgott and the others involved in Bio Boot Camp truly do an amazing job with this program.  There are so many great opportunities!   

What is one piece of advice that you would offer to incoming Biology majors?

Just be ready to work hard and you will achieve your goals.  College is not easy by any means, but you can do very well if you are willing to put in the work.  I remember being terrified about college and I think everyone is always scared about the next level in their career.  Just always have your goals in mind, be willing to work hard to achieve them, and you will.  

Where is your Biology major going to take you?  What are your future plans?

I plan to attend medical school after I finish my undergraduate degree next year, as well as to continue with research.


Alyssa Alberts - Freshman Biology Student/Work-Study job

What were the features of the BIOL camp that, while participating, you found particularly engaging?

I think overall it was informative, and a very good representation of the way that the Biology department is run here, especially in the freshman year. The one thing that I did like the most was how we were introduced to most of the Biology department staff. We got to meet all of the professors that we would’ve had to choose from for freshman year classes. And not only that, but they took us through the facilities. We were shown where the classrooms and the research labs were, and I think that helped us to have more of an understanding of what goes on in the department other than, “so you’re taking a biology class.” It gave me an overall sense of the entire department.

Do you feel that it helped you get a more wide-angle perspective of what our Biology curriculum entails?

Yes, I do. Especially when looking at what to expect for the first week of class. We came in having an idea of which professors interested us the most. We had, of course, a great advantage because other kids who hadn’t taken the BIOL camp were just given a list of classes to choose from, and they didn’t really understand how some professors work in different ways. So, that was definitely a big advantage to coming to the camp.

How do you feel the program prepared you for campus life in general?

Definitely, it helped in figuring out where classes were, because the buildings are a bit confusing. Socially, it was nice to have met other kids who were interested in the Biology fields, and it was nice being together in the same boat, instead of immediately being thrown into a large class on the first day of school, not knowing what to do. Having that pre-orientation to the orientation is a lot more calming than just being thrown in.

Having gone through the first half of the Freshman Biology curriculum, how well do feel the BIOL camp worked as a primer for General Biology?

I thought it was pretty well done because they took us through the first week of Fall semester lecture, lab and discussion. It was kind of a repeat and you already knew what to expect and how to adjust yourself. I think the way they had it set-up was good, because it reflected what you’d actually be doing instead of a mock class, not just pulling in random sources. They took the syllabus from Gen Bio, which was very helpful and literally prepared you for the first week.

Overall, do you feel this program benefited you as Biology Student here at Loyola?

Yes, it was absolutely beneficial. And in addition to everything else, my Work-Study position in the Biology Stockroom is something I never would have known about had it not been for the tour of the department. I never would have known about Chris Calderaro [Lab coordinator and Biology Work-Study Supervisor] if I hadn’t attended the BIOL camp. So not only did it help me with classes but with making connections within the actual department itself.

Elena Kurudza - Freshman Biology Student/Genetics lab volunteer

What were the features of the BIOL camp that, while participating, you found particularly engaging?

I really appreciated the lectures, actually. In addition to the content, they really helped once I got to school with how to take notes in a college lecture setting. It was also beneficial to see all the different teaching styles and to get to know a lot of the faculty. Not only were the presentations on what research the biology department was involved in interesting but also it helped me discover that I wanted to work in Dr. Doering’s lab. It was great interacting with the Grad students because they were able to share a lot of their experiences with us and give useful advice. We played this game on this website where it shows a CAT scan or an x-ray and it tells you all the symptoms, then you basically have to diagnose the disease. So it was motivating to see what our next steps will be.

Do you feel that it helped you get a more wide-angle perspective of what our Biology curriculum entails?

The lab was especially helpful because it was so different than the labs we did in high school. The mock lab practical exam was especially eye-opening seeing that I had never taken an exam like that before. I also then knew I was definitely going to have to do the reading beforehand. That really helped when I got here and could say, “Alright, I know what to expect from these labs” and then jump in right away without sacrificing the first couple labs because I needed to adjust.

How do you feel the program prepared you for campus life in general?

Other than the fact that you get to know where the buildings are –that really helped- you make a lot of friends, so when you get to school it wasn’t like you didn’t have anybody. We are all still so close – it’s almost like a little family. The BIOL camp helped in my other classes as well because I realized that you can have a personal relationship with the professors. Sitting in the smaller rooms and seeing them every day at the BIOL camp, made me realize that they are not some intimidating person that you can’t approach and ask questions. So, in all my classes, I was a lot more comfortable being the student who introduced myself, asked questions, and got to know my teachers.

Having gone through the first half of the Freshman Biology curriculum, how well do feel the BIOL camp worked as a primer for General Biology?

The first couple of weeks it really helped because we had talked about those chapters at BIOL camp. So, I would be in class and say, “Oh yeah, this sounds familiar.” I think all-of-a-sudden it hits when you haven’t learned something but a lot of the techniques we learned at BIOL camp helped get you through that. I do think it really helped me in understanding the broader concepts. It allowed me to figure out what the key ideas are that you focus on in the department and the different themes across Biology.

You said earlier that the BIOL camp led you to work in a research lab; could you tell us a little bit more about that?

I kind of went out on a limb. I was talking to Dr. Castignetti at the end of the BIOL camp and told him that I was interested in Genetics research. He told me who to email. And so, over the summer, I just looked on the Biology Department homepage to see what was being researched, and I remembered Dr. Doering’s presentation [at the BIOL camp]. So I sent him an email and told him, “I’m a freshman, and I don’t know much, but you’ll have me all four years. I would love the opportunity to work in your lab.” Now he has just taken me under his wing. The material he’s researching is a little over my head right now, but he’s presented it to me in such a way that it is not overwhelming. At first I was just going to the lab meetings, and he’s been meeting with me every couple of months just to see how I understand things. I read the papers in that area of research, and over the summer I will start actually working in the lab. So, I think that the BIOL camp helped me to realize that is the kind of thing that I can just take into my own hands. You don’t have to sit there and wait until the opportunity is right in front of you. You can take charge of your experiences, not only when it comes to research but all the opportunities Loyola has to offer.


Nick Marotta – Junior Biology Student                                                                                                                                            

How do you think Bio Boot Camp prepared you for freshman biology?

Even though I had taken AP Bio in high school, I hadn’t had a lab exam before. The practice lab exams as well as the lecture material we had in Bio Boot Camp prepared me for what freshman biology would be and I felt more comfortable with my first biology class as I felt more prepared.

Do you think Bio Boot Camp helped you get involved in research here at Loyola?

Most definitely yes. Bio Boot Camp exposed me to different types of research as professors came in and talked to the class about the diverse types of research they were doing in their labs. I learned I didn’t need to be a doctor to be involved in research so I wasn’t limited in possible career choices.

What was your favorite feature of Bio Boot Camp?

Without a doubt, the behind the scenes Field Museum tour; particularly the beetle room. My second favorite feature was just being on campus and getting a taste for college student living.

Do you think Bio Boot Camp helped you with freshman classes and adjusting to campus life?

In general, I think Bio Boot camp helped me adjust to college life and allowed me to get a feel for what college was before I was actually taking classes. For me, Bio Boot Camp was a catalyst that kick started me from high school mode into college mode by not only introducing me to biology classroom materials, but also college life in general. Also, it helped me get over this fear of talking to professors because I felt I knew faculty members better simply because they had come and talked to us during lecture.

You are involved in a program named FYRE. Can you tell me more about the program?

FYRE stands for First Year Research Experience and I learned about it during Bio Boot Camp. Basically it’s a program to expose first year students to research in a lab and give them hands on experience. It’s a stepping stone to see how you like the research and serves as a trial period so you have the potential to progress to a full undergraduate position. I liked it because you have this option of working in different labs and being exposed to a variety of research topics so you can find the right fit.

What are your future plans?

I want to do something with medical research involving molecular biology in the fields of immunology and oncology. I am also going for a minor in statistics and I hope to get my M.D. or PhD as I continue on the biology track.