COSAM News Articles 2019 May Research Changed the Life of COSAM’s Spring 2019 Graduation Marshal, Sydney Bergstresser

Research Changed the Life of COSAM’s Spring 2019 Graduation Marshal, Sydney Bergstresser

Published: 05/07/2019

By: Maria Gebhardt

“Sydney sets herself apart from her peers by being relentlessly attentive, prepared, and passionate,” explained Dr. Beth Schwartz, associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences. “She brings the same level of enthusiasm and curiosity to her lab work as she does to her course work, and she is an outstanding student with great promise as a researcher.”

Sydney is the Graduation Marshal for the College of Sciences and Mathematics (COSAM) and proudly walked into the ceremony with the College’s flag at spring commencement. Her career goal is to work at the Center for Disease Control developing and testing vaccines for a variety of pathogens including HIV, Ebola and Influenza.

She originally began her undergraduate degree with a desire to excel in medical school. Since her older sister attends medical school and her entire family works in the medical field, she felt this would definitely be her career.

Then, conducting research opened up an entire new world to Sydney.

“The research in Dr. Merner’s lab in the Harrison School of Pharmacy at Auburn University changed my life,” Sydney said.

The graduate students in this lab introduced her to the world of research and helped her understand the difference she could make in a lab.

“The more involved I became in research, the more I realized this is what I want to do,” she added.

Sydney’s professors saw her passion for research in the classroom.

“I think she just really fell in love with always wanting to know WHY something happened since that was constantly her questions during my class,” explained Dr. M. Lamar Seibenhener, assistant research professor in the Department of Biological Sciences. ‘Why does this process work this way?’ She is very adept at her young age at thinking about a problem in abstract and different ways. This is going to allow her to excel as a scientist once she gets her Ph.D. I have absolutely no doubts that she is going to make a name for herself in science and at some point, I will be able to say I knew her back when!”

Sydney made her Auburn experience truly her own experience. She changed her focus from preparing for the MCAT and attending medical school to becoming a researcher. Sydney will be pursuing her doctorate degree as one of only eight students in the Immunology and Molecular Pathogenesis program at Emory University this fall.

In addition to being the College’s Graduation Marshal, Sydney was selected as COSAM’s Outstanding Junior from the Department of Biological Sciences, has received the COSAM Dean’s Award for Academic Excellence, and won the top oral undergraduate presentation in the undergraduate research symposium.

“Throughout my entire career of research and teaching, Sydney is in the top five students overall including the undergraduate and graduate level,” Dr. Seibenhener said. “She is quite simply one of the two most impressive undergraduate students I have ever had the pleasure of instructing in a laboratory or a classroom situation.”  

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