UW-Stevens Point student awarded twice for undergraduate research pitch August 31, 2023 Elliot Becker won first place in UW-Stevens Point's WiSys Quick Pitch research competition and third place in the state finals. Elliot Becker, a biochemistry and biology pre-medicine major, had three minutes to explain the methods, results, study conclusions and implications used in her reproductive biology research. She was competing in the WiSys Quick Pitch research competition held this spring at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, under the guidance of her faculty mentor, Professor Karin Bodensteiner, biology. While her mentor was not surprised when she ranked first in the competition, Becker wasn’t as sure that her research poster would qualify her to move on to the statewide WiSys competition with other student researchers from across the UW System. “They could see my passion, I think,” said Becker. “I had no idea I’d be able to win!” Aside from her award, the lessons learned through research are invaluable as Becker is intent on studying medicine following graduation. Her aspiration is to work as a family physician, as she has had an interest in medicine since sixth grade. Becker prioritized her lab work over the course of the 2023 spring semester, building on previous undergraduate research in mice puberty trends, with implications for reproductive therapies. Part of the study required Becker to test the genetic makeup of the mice. She finished the task in half the time her adviser expected. Elliot Becker presents her genetic research on mice at the statewide Quick Pitch competition. Her mentor was Professor Karin Bodensteiner. “Getting exposed to how to present research and designing the experiment is more important than the data you get,” said Bodensteiner. “Elliott just takes to it and had the natural interest.” Becker spent up to seven hours a week, diligently checking and testing mice in their study for signs of puberty and measuring the differences between wild-type mice and transgenic mice with an extra copy of the gene for CCL2. Their study examined the effects of overexpression of CCL2 on reproductive processes in littermates. The protein, secreted in the brain, has been shown to affect inflammation and immune response. “I’ve learned to get better at data analysis and leadership,” she said. “Dr. Bodensteiner let me take the reins with troubleshooting and experimental design. It’s so rewarding.” Becker and other students in research learn to use efficient lab techniques, how to design the right experiment for the research question, time management, and how to present their findings. At this month’s SPARK Symposium finals at UW-Oshkosh, Becker’s presentation, “Timing of Puberty in Mice Transgenic for CCL2,” earned her a statewide WiSys Quick Pitch Third Place Award. “I was able to network with some incredible and intelligent individuals and learned about novel research being conducted at other UW schools,” Becker said. She is grateful for the connections she has made working closely with faculty and learning from peers. A highlight of her research experience was attending the National Conference for Undergraduate Research (NCUR) in Eau Claire last spring with Bodensteiner, and her pre-med adviser, Professor Jennifer Bray. Becker said she knew she wanted to pursue her education at UW-Stevens Point because it offered small class sizes and the chance to build her own community. Becker is connected to the Pre-Medicine Pre-PA Club and the Biochemistry Club, and she works in the Chemistry Biology Stockroom prepping lab materials. “Elliott is a hardworking, enthusiastic and motivated employee. She is a great asset to any team and her positivity and enthusiasm is truly inspiring. I love working with her,” said stockroom manager Raquel Adams. “Her future is bright and she will do great things!” Elliot Becker (back right) was a community health intern at the Boys and Girls Club of the Wausau area over the summer. She took a break from research over the summer, but not from her passion. Becker worked as a program specialist for the Community Health Internship (CHIP) with the Boys and Girls Club of the Wausau Area, working with a wide age range of children. Becker engaged the kids in STEM activities such as making slime centered around the circulatory system and hosting a DNA extraction lab for teens. Her internship supervisor Molly Lewandowski said Becker oversaw an activity for children from numerous schools in the Wausau School District in the after-summer-school programming. She learned how to meet the needs of program members with diverse capacities and skills. Becker even drew on her fluency in Spanish to converse and connect with a young member in the program. “She is a confident, personable, understanding and professional individual that would greatly impact the medical field in any position,” said Lewandowski. Outside of her coursework at UWSP, Becker loves water skiing, biking, running and singing. She will continue her work in Bodensteiner’s lab this fall. Becker encourages other students who want to grow their leadership skills through research to get involved at UWSP. “All they need is to just to have the interest! They can learn the skills,” she said.