Valley native makes most of Adams State to launch future

ALAMOSA – Making the most of their experiences many graduates from local high schools begin their great story at Adams State University. Megan (Gylling) Cerny, a graduate from Centauri High School, was accepted to graduate school at CU-Denver and was awarded a prestigious teaching assistantship to offset costs of tuition.

Cerny will earn a double major in biology-cellular and molecular, and chemistry-allied health, with a minor in business administration this spring. She will then begin her master’s degree at the Colorado State University-Denver Integrative Biology program with an emphasis in developmental biology.

She said her Adams State professors provided her every opportunity possible to gain direct experience in her field. “I was encouraged by multiple professors to conduct undergraduate research focusing on a topic that interests me.”

A Porter scholar, Cerny conducted research on the immunological cost of autotomy in pinhead crickets. She presented her research at Student Scholar Days and again at a Porter Hall lunchtime talk. “My advisors ensured my success throughout the research and provided me great recommendations to improve presenting my research. I was encouraged to attend conferences and Student Scholar Days to present our findings.”

To begin her research, Cerny grouped male crickets into a control group, a two-hour incubation group, and a four-hour incubation group. Cerny pinched the legs of the crickets in the latter two groups, causing them to voluntarily remove that leg (autotomy). She gently introduced a foreign entity where the leg had been and then incubated the two groups of crickets. The analysis indicated that protein activity changed within the two-timed groups suggesting the immune system was activated. Her original hypothesis suggested that energy is diverted from other areas of the cricket, including growth, reproduction and survival, and used for the immune system once autotomy has taken place in a cricket.

Her research will be published in the Tri Beta Journal this summer. “I believe the opportunity to conduct research as an undergraduate increased my opportunity to be accepted into a graduate program of my choice.”

She appreciates the guidance from Dr. Adam Kleinschmit, associate professor of biology, who began mentoring her after Dr. Matthew Steffenson. “Megan has received excellent experimental guidance and mentoring on the behalf of Dr. Steffenson while completing her research project,” Kleinschmit said. “I have been very impressed with her professionalism during the dissemination of her research at the regional TriBranch American Society of Microbiology conference we attended this spring and have the utmost confidence that Megan has a promising career ahead of her in the life sciences.”

Her long-term plans include earning a Ph.D. and teaching at the college level. “Not only were my professors involved with ensuring my success in research but they also tremendously helped me through the application process for graduate school. Without the support and encouragement from my professors I am not sure if I would have conducted research or felt confident in applying to graduate school.”

Caption: Megan (Gylling) Cerny will be headed to Colorado University Denver this fall after being accepted to graduate school./Photo by Linda Relyea