In May 2020, Alexa Kugler will graduate with a major in both pathobiology and German studies, along with a minor in molecular and cell biology. She plans to take a gap year as a research intern, then attend graduate school. Her long-term career goal is to secure a research position with a facility such as the Centers for Disease Control, studying zoonotic infectious diseases. Read more about Alexa’s experiences as a UConn student.
What attracted you to the UConn College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources?
I actually came into UConn my freshman year in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, as a biological sciences major. During my first semester I realized it wasn’t the right fit for me and started exploring other major possibilities. I took courses in a few different majors across colleges and found I really liked not only the courses offered in CAHNR, but also the college’s strong sense of community.
Why did you choose your major?
Although I intended to change majors, I still wanted to study something related to biology, and one of my professors told me about the pathobiology major. I checked out the major online and met with a few professors in the department, who were all eager to help and offer insight into the department (as were the students who helped me navigate the maze of Atwater my first few times in the building). I ultimately decided that of the bio majors on campus, pathobiology was the best fit for me. Since becoming a patho major I’ve been lucky to have great advisors, mentors and friends within the department.
Which one of your UConn activities, internships or jobs was the most memorable? Why?
Within the Department of Pathobiology and Veterinary Sciences is the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL). I’ve worked in the necropsy lab since my sophomore year. It’s been an incredible experience assisting veterinarians in necropsies on a variety of species and learning from them about the profession. I have also worked in the microbiology diagnostic section, which allowed me to see different aspects of the CVMDL. The CVMDL plays an important role in animal and human health, and the opportunity to be involved with a diagnostic laboratory in this capacity is unique to UConn and CAHNR specifically.
Name two other experiences that have enriched your studies.
One of my goals for undergrad was to improve my German language skills, so from March through August 2019, I studied abroad in Freiburg, Germany. It was definitely one of the best experiences I’ve had. From the very beginning I was forced to use German to navigate things like opening a bank account, moving apartments, registering with the city, etc. I made close friends from all over the world, and as cheesy as it sounds, I fell in love with the “green city” on the edge of the Black Forest.
Another experience I’m grateful for on UConn’s campus has been my involvement in Dr. Steven Szczepanek’s laboratory, where I am working on my honors thesis. It has been a great way to get an understanding of what academic research is like and allowed me to explore the fields of immunology and infectious disease.
What has been the biggest challenge in your UConn career?
My first semester transition to college was challenging. It took a bit for me to find my space on UConn’s large campus, both socially and academically. Once I found what worked for me, I came to appreciate the opportunities UConn’s size provides and realized that after a few semesters, UConn can feel small—when you meet someone new, chances are you have a mutual connection.
When do you expect to graduate? What then?
I graduate in May 2020. After graduation I hope to continue in a career in infectious disease and eventually attend graduate school.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?
I was born in Germany (but grew up in Connecticut) and I have dual citizenship. Since I was living in Germany at the time of the European Parliament elections, I got to vote! Sounds simple, but it made me feel more like a “real” European and German.