Spring 2013

Students partner with our community

By Nick Boehm

Each year UW-Stevens Point students serve the greater good of Central Wisconsin while simultaneously gaining real-world experience in their field. The collaboration between academics and the community has proven especially rewarding for one student.  Alexandrea Ollhoff, a Biology student from Merrill, Wis., extended her education beyond the classroom by participating in several academic and extra-curricular activities that will make a positive impact on Central Wisconsin.

Ollhoff spent last summer working for the Central Wisconsin Resiliency Project. The project works to identify and foster cooperative efforts in Central Wisconsin aimed at creating an environmentally, socially and economically secure future. Community development focuses on food, energy, ecosystems, waste and water. By working at community gardens, Ollhoff was able to combine her academic knowledge to meet the needs of the Stevens Point community. She donated fresh produce to the HOPE Center and provided outreach to young people by encouraging involvement with sustainable community development. “We had preschoolers come to the gardens and we taught them where their food came from,” said Ollhoff. “They were amazed.”

At the 2012 College of Letters and Science Undergraduate Research Symposium, Ollhoff presented her project, “Just Wheat a minute! Hormonal analysis in tall and short Wheat lines.”  The presentation featured research she conducted on food genetics.  “It’s good to get the community involved and inform citizens,” Ollhoff said.

Ollhoff’s research recently received a grant from the United Soybean Board, which allowed her collaboration on soybean genetic research with Biology Associate Professor Devinder Sandhu to be published in Functional & Integrative Genomics. “The soybean is a Wisconsin state crop, so it’s nice to increase knowledge about it. It’s also good to know your research will help people locally,” said Ollhoff.

In addition to sharing her findings locally, Ollhoff had the opportunity to represent UW-Stevens Point by presenting a poster at the International Plant & Animal Genome Conference in San Diego, Calif. The Plant & Animal Genome Conference expands on recent developments and future plans for plant and animal genome projects. With an attendance of nearly 3,000 people this year, Ollhoff had the opportunity to network with global scholars, professionals and government agencies on behalf of UW-Stevens Point and the community.

Ollhoff’s participation in extra-curricular activities resulted in a successful undergraduate experience at UW-Stevens Point. Her academics and community involvement have been awarded through grants and scholarships and ultimately have led her to an interest in graduate research in horticulture, plant genetics and plant sciences.

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