Q&A with microbiology student Sarah Wright

Sarah working the a lab.

Puyallup, Washington, native Sarah Wright is a microbiology major in the School of Molecular Biosciences who is on track to graduate in the spring of 2023. Like many students in the College of Veterinary Medicine, she has taken advantage of the unique opportunity to gain experience in the laboratory setting as an undergraduate. For the past year and a half, she has worked in the lab of Dr. Leigh Knodler, an associate professor in the Paul G. Allen School for Global Health.

How has WSU prepared you for your future?

Being at WSU has given me a much better look on the world’s expectations. In high school, you were surrounded by teachers who would constantly manage your schoolwork and provide support accordingly. At WSU, it is significantly more individualized, which isn’t to say that there isn’t support. I have had many professors who are incredibly involved in my progress as a student and who have presented me with opportunities to learn more than the required curriculum. The difference at WSU is you are encouraged to ask for help, to become responsible for your own educational path and how that affects your learning. I think that is much more realistic to how support in the future will be provided.

What are some of your favorite hobbies?

My favorite hobby would have to be playing the flute. I’ve been playing since the fifth grade, and I am minoring in music here at WSU. Music has always been a sort of escape for me. It is nice to be able to focus on something in my free time where I can express some form of creativity. I also really enjoy reading books in my free time – I think it’s exciting to be able to escape into the world a book can create.

What’s your favorite place at WSU?

My favorite place would have to be on top of the library and by the glass dome overlooking the practice fields. I love eating lunch out there when it’s warm outside, and it has a beautiful view of Pullman at night – you can star gaze and see all the lights of the city. My freshman year I would go up there just to take a break from studying, and during my sophomore year at the peak of COVID I would go up there after practicing flute in the music building just to have a space outside my apartment bedroom.

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

My favorite course at WSU would have to be Microbial Physiology with Professor Luying Xun. He had a way of explaining the course concepts that I hadn’t really heard before. He used a lot of analogies that made the course easier to understand. The class also felt like a bridge between a lot of other concepts I had learned in my other three years at WSU. It was very eye-opening to be able to see how everything I had learned so far connected in one class.  

What do you do in Dr. Knodler’s lab, and do you have any other jobs?

Last summer I mostly worked on improving my technique with infections and CFUs (colony forming units) in general. This summer I properly learned how to do a western blot and ran a few westerns to get some pictures for a lab mate’s paper. I also have been running many infections to collect data for a paper my PI (principal investigator) is writing. Another technique I have learned this summer is cloning. I have cloned many different vectors with new inserts to help further the research done in this lab. On the weekends I also work as a manager at the Sonic Drive-In in Moscow.

What are your career goals? 

As of right now, my career goal is to gain some experience in a research lab for the next two years before going to get my doctorate. Ideally, I would then work in a research lab for a while in my post-doc phase and maybe run a lab of my own in the future. They are big goals and always have the chance of changing, but that is what I am currently working toward.