Westmont Magazine Discovering a Love for Scientific Research
Heidi Pullmann ’19 chose Westmont for its success in placing students in medical school and planned to become a doctor or a college professor. But her college experience expanded her sense of vocation beyond medicine. When she joined a professor in a research project, she discovered a passion for working in the lab. “I love biology and want to be deeply invested in it,” she says.
She also added a minor in religious studies. “I find religion generally fascinating as it engages a part of my brain I don’t use as much,” she says. “I wanted to grow spiritually and was ready and willing to be challenged in my faith, and my classes have done that immensely. But they’ve also affirmed that science and Christianity are compatible.”
Planning her schedule carefully allowed her to spend a semester abroad with Westmont in Jerusalem so she could live outside of the country and explore Jerusalem. She appreciated the in-depth experience with both Palestinian and Israeli communities.
Last summer, she conducted research with Yi-Fan Lu, assistant professor of biology. The department has acquired a high-tech tool to understand human neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, and she used the new micro- electrode array to detect and record the response of neurons to genetic mutation or toxins. Heidi presented her findings at the Celebration of Summer Research in September 2018. Wanting to be involved at Westmont in a deeper capacity,
she ran for vice president of the Westmont College Student Association (WCSA) last spring and won. “Serving with WCSA has helped me feel more connected to Westmont,” she says. “I had never thought about student government before, but it turned out to be a great fit for me.”
Heidi will enroll in a doctoral program at Baylor University in the fall. A professor in Baylor’s cellular molecular biology program reached out to Westmont looking for a graduate student to work in plant genetics. “I’m interested in developing better ways to grow plants through plant genetics or agricultural technologies,” Heidi says. “I hope to aid in discoveries that can help end world hunger.”
Looking back, Heidi says her four years at Westmont were sometimes difficult and she navigated relationships and figured out her faith. “I’ve met the most amazing people here and developed genuine friendships,” she says. “I leave with a lot of confidence about my abilities as a scholar, a scientist and a child of God. Westmont was a safe place to work out all these things.”