Q&A with genetics and cell biology student Ayiana Sapp

Congratulations to Rathdrum, Idaho, native Ayiana Sapp, who is graduating from WSU on Saturday with an undergraduate degree in genetics and cell biology. Ayiana, who plans to now pursue a PhD at WSU, has always been passionate about science – a trait she attributes to her parents.

“When I was young, my mother would take me and my siblings to our dad’s job, which was as a hospital lab technician, where he would show us all his fancy lab equipment and tests,” she said. “Now, my dad is a flight nurse, and my mom is a social worker and counselor with a master’s degree. I attribute my success to the foundation my parents laid for me.”

Ayiana recently took some time to discuss her experiences at WSU and her future plans.

How has WSU prepared you for your future? 

WSU has prepared me for my future by teaching me how to be responsible and how to think critically about the world around me. WSU has taught me to question the world around me and find my own answers to my problems by working with the people around me and doing my own research. There are many questions I have yet to answer, and I will use what WSU has provided me to find those answers myself. Additionally, I now have many speaking and writing skills from my time at WSU so that I can effectively communicate and present information to the people around me.

What’s your favorite place at WSU?

My favorite place at WSU is the stairway behind the Holland and Terrell Library that leads you between Rogers Field and the music building. I love walking through there when it’s quiet and everyone is in class because of all the trees and plants that grow there. I once saw a pair of rabbits running up the hill next to the stairs. I love nature, and it makes me feel comforted knowing about all the amazing things that exist right outside.

What’s your favorite course you’ve taken at WSU?

My favorite course I’ve taken at WSU was MBios 423, human genetics. My professor was Dr. McCabe, and it was my favorite class because it was challenging and went really in-depth on genetic processes and conditions. I loved being able to ask as many questions as I wanted and study how rare genetic diseases are inherited and what causes them. The answers to these questions we have about rare conditions are so complicated, but their complexity makes them even more intriguing for me.

What do you hope to do when you graduate?  

When I graduate with my bachelor’s degree, I want to start my PhD program here at WSU. I’ve already been accepted, and I’m really looking forward to being an active researcher, studying those processes that define us as humans. I want to contribute to the world around me, answering those questions that can provide treatment to the sick. Hopefully, the research I do will eventually help those around me, bettering our society with understanding, kindness, and compassion.

Do you work in a lab?

Currently, I work in Dr. Wyrick’s lab here at WSU. I’ve been researching if ultraviolet light causes mutations, specifically deletions, in yeast DNA and whether this may contribute to the formation of skin cancer in humans. While simple, yeast is a surprisingly good model to use instead of human skin, and when exposed to UV light, it mutates similar to how our skin mutates when exposed to UV, which can eventually lead to skin cancer. Hopefully, my conclusions can contribute to our understanding of cancer progression and DNA damage/repair. In other words, wear your sunscreen! 

What’s one of your favorite hobbies?

One of my favorite hobbies right now is crocheting. I started with knitting, which my grandmother taught me how to do, but there are so many more possibilities when it comes to crocheting. The basic concept of crocheting is a loop within a loop, which you can combine to create complex shapes and forms. So far, I’ve made a dog, a bear, and some granny squares, and I’m planning on crocheting some Christmas presents this year because I love making homemade presents for my family. Also, it keeps my hands busy when I’m not writing essays or working in the lab. 

What’s a unique fun fact about you? 

As scientifically inclined as I am, I am also very crafty. I’ve already mentioned that I can knit and crochet, but I can also draw, paint, sculpt, sew, and embroider. This summer I taught myself how to hand sew, and I am currently working on a project to make a skirt for myself out of 10-by-10-inch squares of fabric that is completely hand-sewn. I love expressing myself through art, and being creative is very fulfilling for me, especially when my current academic situation and future career will be very analytical and precise.