Casie Osborne arrived at Western in 2007 as a tenure-track professor. She immediately applied for a Thornton grant. By summer, she had three undergraduate students assisting her in the lab.
Osborne, who works in developmental Biology, grew interested in the Thornton program before even getting her job offer.
“Whenever I was interviewing, everyone was telling me we have this great thing that’s this Thornton endowment,” Osborne said.
It can be difficult for professors at small teaching colleges to secure time and funding for research. Thornton makes it much easier. The program provides Osborne with the resources to conduct her experiments and continue devoting time to her students. In turn, students are able to enjoy both personal connections with their professors as well as important lab and field experience.
“I only work with undergraduates, which is huge. That’s what I did whenever I was an undergrad. I feel like that was instrumental in my whole career trajectory, working one-on-one with a professor, not a grad student or post-doc. I wasn’t washing dishes or making solutions for others’ projects, I had my own projects,” Osborne said.
The internal funding from Thornton allows her to give that same opportunity and attention to her own students. During her first summer at Western, she and her students continued research she’d be working on since her own undergraduate days. The experiments, which made use of Osborne’s frog colony, focused on endocrine-disrupting chemicals’ effect on development (think BPA and other plasticizers).
By working with Osborne, students can try out research before committing to several years of a master’s or doctoral program.
“They either realize they fall in love with research and they want to go down that path or the opposite, which is good to know too,” Osborne said. “Just being able to think through problems and problem solve, troubleshoot experiments, those are really good skills, life skills, to have.”
Osborne said Western reminds her of her own undergraduate experience—an intimate campus with caring professors and curious students.
“If you take advantage of everything Western has to offer you get a great education and you’re not in debt forever,” Osborne said.