Q&A with genetics and cell biology student Madelynn McElroy

Madelynn with one of her tarantulas.

Madelynn McElroy hopes to pursue a doctorate and conduct research into topics like tissue engineering/regeneration, drug delivery, biomolecular engineering, and cancer research after she graduates this spring. From Maple Valley, Washington, Madelynn is double-majoring in bioengineering, and genetics and cell biology.

While much of her time is dedicated to her studies and responsibilities as a teaching assistant and a researcher in various labs, Madelynn also makes sure to find time for her nearly 100 houseplants, nine fish tanks, gecko, and two tarantulas.

How has WSU prepared you for your future?

Many of the courses I have taken have given insight into what a career as a bioengineer and/or scientist would be like, which has helped to solidify my desire to continue research in academia.

What’s your favorite thing about WSU?

The WSU community is very welcoming and spirited – there have been many times in Western Washington when I have been wearing Coug gear and someone will yell, “Go Cougs!” My grandparents in Florida have also dealt with this, as their neighbor (who was a WSU alum) honked at them after seeing a WSU decal on their car.

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

I think that one of the most recent courses I enjoyed was Che/Bioe 476 this past fall, taught by Dr. Bernie Van Wie. The name of the course is “Biomedical Engineering Principles,” and we were able to have a new speaker in class each week to discuss different research within the bioengineering field – from protein and tissue engineering to modeling stenoses and 3D printing biomimetic materials. The course gave insight into so many different aspects of bioengineering that are not always discussed or well known, which led to my interest and pursual of some of these topics when looking at research labs and applying for PhD programs.

What do you hope to do when you graduate?

During this past fall semester, I have been applying for bioengineering graduate programs across the country. I am interested in the micro side of bioengineering and have been talking with professors at various universities about research in tissue engineering/regeneration, drug delivery, biomolecular engineering, and cancer research.

Do you have a job or work in a lab?

I am a member of multiple labs on campus and have been a TA for the math department in previous semesters. I have been working with Dr. Tegeder in plant biology research focused on improving metabolite efficiency and stress responses in various plant species. I have also worked with Dr. Voulgarakis in the math department, developing a searching algorithm to model DNA polymerase binding to DNA as well as another coding project using phase transitions and bifurcation to model stem cell differentiation. We currently have one paper that has been published and another in progress!

I was a course grader for differential equations (Math 315) in fall 2021 as well as a TA for introductory statistics (Stat 212) in fall 2022 – I have loved tutoring and working with all of my students and am hoping to continue teaching throughout my graduate school career as well.

What’s one of your favorite things or favorite hobby?

I enjoy gardening and taking care of my animals – I currently have somewhere around 95 houseplants alongside the garden on my balcony, and I have nine fish tanks, a gecko, and two tarantulas. Some of my fish tanks have an aquaponic setup, where I have plants with their roots in the water and their leaves above (peace lilies, etc.).

What’s a unique fun fact about you?

I have lived in Washington my entire life (was born in Tacoma) but have never been to Canada.