Shortly after graduating from Doane, Shavlik ’18 doesn't skip a beat in Ph.D. program at Oregon
In 2014, Michael Shavlik ’18 came to Doane with aspirations of becoming a teacher after graduation. Five years later, Shavlik is teaching, but in a much different capacity than he would have ever imagined.
After graduating from Doane last spring as a biology major, Shavlik is currently pursuing a Doctorate of Molecular Biology at the University of Oregon.
Shavlik’s experiences in the biology program, the extensive hands-on research he was a part of, his intellectual curiosity, and his impressive academic and extracurricular profile led to him getting accepted into doctorate programs at The Ohio State University, Cornell University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Georgia, and the University of Oregon. He had his “pick of the litter,” ultimately choosing the University of Oregon.
As part of the Doctorate program, Shavlik is currently taking a class, teaching a class, and taking part in research.
His first term at Oregon, he did research in a biochemistry lab, taught a senior-level molecular genetics course, and took a graduate-level molecular genetics course. This term, he is taking Advanced Biochemistry and teaching introductory biology lab sections.
Although the road to teaching, at least at the moment, wasn’t quite what he envisioned, he is thankful to have these experiences at the front of a classroom.
“I love the teaching component of the program,” he said. “I felt prepared to stand up in front of a room of college students, in large part thanks to my experiences at Doane. It’s been really fun and one of my favorite aspects of grad school so far.”
Shavlik speaks very highly of Doane and its biology program, saying that it prepared him extremely well for the next step.
“For Doane to allow students right away to get involved, to meet with their professors one-on-one every week and get to be a part of progressing the project as opposed to doing just grunt work was awesome and something that I don’t think a lot of programs have,” he said. “I honestly didn’t realize how great Doane and the biology program was until I left. All of the faculty were wonderfully supportive, educated, and knowledgeable in their field.”
Shavlik’s interest in biology sparked after taking Biology 110, an introductory course at Doane, his freshman year. The course is research-based and allows students the opportunity to present their research findings at a biology symposium at the end of the semester, something that opened his eyes to the opportunities within the biology department.
The summer after his freshman year, Shavlik participated in a three lab rotation, working with three Doane biology professors on their research which helped him identify what areas of biology he would be most interested in. His sophomore year, he worked closely with Erin Doyle, assistant professor of biology at Doane, on her research. Doyle’s research focused on TAL effector proteins and how they are used by some bacteria to help infect rice. Through this project, Shavlik did a lot of computational biology -- a time that he identified as a major growing experience.
Towards the end of Shavlik’s sophomore year, he applied to REUs, or Research Experience for Undergraduates, for the summer at Colorado State University and Ohio State University in molecular genetics.
Shavlik received notice that he didn’t get accepted into the Colorado State program, which he immediately turned into a learning experience.
“It was a turning point for me,” he said. “I knew I wanted to do science and be better as a scientist. I met with Erin (Doyle) to identify how I can better myself as a researcher and become a better candidate moving forward.
“A few weeks later, Ohio State notified me that I had been accepted. I went to Ohio State the summer going into my junior year and it was my first exposure to graduate students. I realized sitting in one of the seminars that this is what I wanted to do -- I wanted to be a graduate student and get my Ph.D.”
After his experience in Columbus, Shavlik dedicated his last two years at Doane to do everything in his power to put himself in good position to be accepted into a doctorate program. Aside from his school work, he was President of his fraternity, a member of the track and cross country teams, involved with the Hansen Leadership Program and Honors program, and studied abroad in France for one semester.
While he was in France, he met weekly with Doyle via Zoom to assist with research. “One of the more difficult things about a computing project is testing the work,” Doyle says. “One of the things Michael developed in France was the workflow he used and how to test it and get the right results. That’s difficult to do in person but he was doing it on his own in France.”
Tessa Durham Brooks, assistant professor of biology at Doane, also worked closely with Shavlik during his time as a student at Doane.
“He had a knack for understanding opportunities,” she says. “He knew it was unique to have a genomes and phenomes course and a computations class at Doane. He got every experience you could imagine in undergrad, whether it was unique coursework, research, studying abroad, or an REU. It’s hard for me to think of a student that was as intellectually-driven as he was, someone that pursued as many opportunities just out of his sheer joy to learn.”
While Shavlik will spend the next four or five years at the University of Oregon, he will always have his Doane roots, which he says he will forever be thankful for.
“The environment at Doane is one where you can thrive,” he said. “Doane’s education is stellar all the way around. It’s stellar in a way that you don’t exactly understand how good of an education you’re getting from those professors until you leave.
“Crete is a small town in the middle of Nebraska that a lot of people would overlook but it’s important to not overlook a small college. The quality of education you’re getting here is just as good, if not better, than what you would get at a larger school.”
For more information on Doane’s biology program, visit doane.edu/biology.