There is something in the methodical nature of science that has always appealed to Ashley Loeven ’18. Loeven loves the challenge of finding a gap in knowledge, then posing a question, formulating a hypothesis, and testing that theory in order to reach a sound conclusion. Her drive to contribute to the body of scientific knowledge grew when she arrived on the Le Moyne campus as a biology major in the fall of 2014, and kicked into overdrive when, as a sophomore, she began working in a research lab headed by Associate McDevitt Professor of Biology Lara DeRuisseau, Ph.D.
A physiologist by training, DeRuisseau leads a team conducting studies that they hope will aid society by advancing understanding of people living with cardio-respiratory concerns. Loeven recalled that she was instantly drawn to the work because she wanted to better understand the complex processes that regulate breathing. Over the course of her time in the lab, Loeven evolved into a scientist. She learned new techniques and how to read primary literature, and became more independent in her work. Loeven also discovered that research isn’t a linear path, and gained experience as an undergraduate in troubleshooting, realizing and correcting errors. As a senior, Loeven presented her work at Experimental Biology 2018, an annual conference that draws more than 14,000 scientists from around the globe, and was awarded the prestigious American Physiological Society Horwitz/Horowitz Outstanding Undergraduate Abstract Award and Excellence in Undergraduate Research Award. She was also the first author of an article published in the Journal of Applied Physiology (Arterial blood sampling in male CD-1 and C57BL/6J mice with 1% isoflurane is similar to awake mice).
In addition to her work in DeRuisseu’s lab during the academic year, Loeven earned a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship to work at SUNY Upstate Medical University during the summer of her junior year at Le Moyne.
Today Loeven, who graduated from Le Moyne's Integral Honors Program, is in a doctoral program in cellular and molecular biology at Florida State University. Her primary areas of interest are neuroscience, physiology and metabolism. She is preparing to enter the field at a time when women make up 47 percent of the U.S. workforce but just 26 percent of the science, technology, engineering and math workforce. She plans to build a career in research for either a corporation for government agency such as the National Institutes of Health or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and to use her communication skills to make science accessible and understandable to all.
“Research is my way to care for others and further scientific knowledge,” she said. “It's my platform to advance knowledge, perform outreach by mentoring students, with the ultimate goal that the research I participate in will benefit others.”
The work in DeRuisseau’s lab is supported by more than $500,000 in funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) which is awarded to both Le Moyne College and Syracuse University. The funding includes an Academic Research Enrichment Award (AREA) from the NIH as well as two Research Supplements to Support Diversity in Health-Related Research. The AREA Program supports meritorious research, exposes undergraduate and graduate students to hands-on research in eligible environments, and strengthens the research environment of schools that have not been major recipients of NIH support. The supplements are being used to reach an NIH goal of increasing the diversity of the science workforce by supporting undergraduate, doctoral and post-doctoral candidates in health-related research.