Seeing the Unseen

Missy Weldy pointing to her lab notes

Missy Weldy

“One thing I appreciate about the MBS program is that it broadens the definition of who can be successful in science.”

Missy Weldy, with a BA in women’s studies and a master’s in education, wasn’t sure if she could pursue a graduate degree in an entirely different field. With a deep appreciation of science but no formal background, Weldy got to work.

“I started taking undergraduate courses at Normandale just to see if I could do it. I took calculus I and II and general chemistry, and I just fell in love.”

“It felt like magic.”

Weldy, a self-proclaimed pragmatist, set out on a path of discovery. She was interested in science, animals, and the environment, but wasn’t sure which degree or career would fit. She talked to a lot of people, volunteered at a library and a wildlife rehabilitation center, and got involved in a wetlands health evaluation program.

Missy Weldy

And then she was introduced to the microbe. “We were learning about Legionella, and I realized how smart microbes are. I got interested in what processes happen on a cellular level. It was fascinating to me, this hidden world. It felt like magic—what we can’t see, but what we know is there.”

It turns out Weldy had taken the right courses to pursue the Master of Biological Sciences major. She met with advisor Brad Fruen, then completed her application in under two weeks. “I got into grad school,” she says. “Who would have thought?”

Focused Yet Flexible

Going back to school as an adult student is a unique journey. “I’m focused in a different way,” she says. “Because I had to give up a lot to go back to school—a full-time job, wages, health insurance, retirement benefits—I’m especially motivated.”

"This program allowed me to pursue a master’s degree that I wouldn’t be able to pursue otherwise.”

“The MBS degree has been great because it has given me the freedom to take courses that are of specific interest to me. I appreciate that because I don’t have an undergrad degree in science, and I didn’t get to explore a lot of areas. This program allowed me to pursue a master’s degree that I wouldn’t be able to pursue otherwise.”

Has she found her niche yet? “I’m open, because this journey has been changeable for me,” Weldy says. “I would prefer to take experiences as they come. My end goal is to have a job I love—what that looks like, I’m willing to be flexible about.”

Magic Under the Microscope

Weldy currently works in the Bond Lab, where research focuses primarily on an anaerobic bacteria called Geobacter sulfurreducens. These bacteria can transport electrons outside of their cell membranes to insoluble substances, including iron, manganese, and (as the name suggests) sulfur.

flasks in Bond Lab

Weldy’s research involves a Geobacter mutant with the fumB gene—which is needed for carbon metabolism to occur—deleted. She hopes her work can help determine what mutations in the bacteria’s genome suppress the lack of fumB and restore wild-type growth rates. 

She is also working on removing the macA gene from Geobacter in an attempt to establish the gene's function. Some reports suggest that the macA protein facilitates electron transfer, while others suggest macA does not play a role in electron transfer but helps reduce oxidative stress. Weldy will be looking to see what function is lost when the gene product is absent.

"Know what you want to get out of the program and focus on that.”

“It’s important to me to wake up and feel excited. I feel that way about coming into this lab. I love working on a team.” Her fellow researchers in the Bond Lab, she notes, “take the science seriously, they don’t take themselves too seriously.”

Pro Tip for Students

“Actively make use of the resources offered. Contact an advisor, get to know your professors, get to know other students. Advocate for yourself. Know what you want to get out of the program and focus on that.”