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Christian Butler Ryckeley


Student Degree


Student Major

Biology (Zoology Track) and Chemistry (Pre-Med)

Student Hometown

Dublin, North Carolina


As an Air Force baby of a pilot and flight nurse, I was always on the go, traveling across the country/world well into my teenage years.  Being so mobile, if I wasn’t playing with my mother’s suture kits and heart models, I would busy myself by exploring the landscape surrounding our house.  I can’t imagine the number of meals that I skipped, or the number of poison ivy plants I brushed, while traversing the woodland landscapes.  With both my mother and natural surroundings, it is no wonder that this was the beginning of my two great loves: medicine and zoology (especially turtles!)!

I am a traditional, commuting student who, outside the classroom, has held two jobs consistently throughout my undergraduate career.  From cashier and server, to Supplemental Instructor, to Academic Support Center Tutor, I have internalized the teachings of my parents that determination and a solid work ethic are central in becoming a successful, well-rooted adult. I have also been a Relay For Life captain for two years, an Honors College Council Representative for four years, Vice President for Gamma Sigma Epsilon (Chemistry Honors Society), and an active member of TriBeta (Biological Honors Society), the Health Careers Club and Literacy Commons.  I look forward to closing out my final semester in Field Zoology with Dr. John Roe, who I hear is a fellow lover of the ever loveable terrapin, so I am extremely excited!


Why did you choose to attend UNCP?

Being a lover of science, but also from a small town that has only one stop sign, I found the intimate but engaging atmosphere of UNC Pembroke to be exactly what I desired. The pivotal moment in my decision-making process was when Dr. Mandjiny grabbed both my friend, Linda Council, and me from a campus tour to give us a personal lab-to-lab walkthrough. He gave us an in-depth explanation for every piece of machinery, equipment, and glassware, showing a keen desire in not only us, but also in fostering a love of science in his future students.  I can gladly say that he was, and still is, the highlight of my UNCP experience.

What do you like best about UNCP?

Being part of the UNC system but having a smaller student body offers an interesting dynamic for students enrolled at UNCP.  This is especially so in the science departments, where having a smaller average class size of ~30, in comparison to ~100 at other institutions, allows for more interaction with instructors and the class material.  This has aided me in attaining a higher level of proficiency in my chosen fields of study, allowing for more time to pursue extracurricular activities outside of the classroom setting.

I have had the pleasure of being a Supplemental Instructor for the one and only Prof. Mary Zets, commonly known as “Meg of the Biology Department” (outside of the Oxendine Science Building) for her tremendous reputation for teaching the biological sciences.  For two years, I had the pleasure of assisting her students in and out of the classroom, helping them not only in understanding, but in learning how utterly fascinating biology can be. As the SI course was BIO 1000 (Principles of Biology), the classes were predominantly freshman, so I also had the opportunity to get many of the students on the right foot in terms of study skills, coping with stress, and transitioning to college life in general.  Besides being a magnificent help in reviewing material for my Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), it also inspired in me a passion for teaching and aiding others through their educational endeavors.  This is so much so that I wish to pursue a teaching position in medical school following my years of practicing surgery.  For this, I am entirely grateful for the guidance, knowledge, and inspiration shared by my forever mentor, Mrs. Zets, for without her, I probably would not have been led down this career path.

What are your post-graduation plans?

After graduation in spring 2016, I plan to matriculate into UNC’s School of Medicine in pursuit of a doctorate in surgical medicine.  I am currently in wait of interviews, so all thoughts are remaining positive!  After school and residency, I wish to follow in my parents' footsteps and join the Air Force, not only to practice and heal those around the world, but to become exposed to different sights, beliefs and ideas.  My parents, with their plethora of stories and tales from various nations and countries, have inspired me to travel the world, to take in what it has to offer, and to eventually come to the realization that no matter how different we may look from each other, that we are all the same.

After retiring from the Air Force, I wish to take on civilian practice for a period of time, and then engage in teaching the next generation of physicians.  Afterwards, I may decide to pursue my next degree of choice, becoming a veterinarian.  So from the looks of it, my final years will probably consist of my either practicing/teaching medicine, honing my veterinary skills, or some combination of the three, time permitting I might add.  Being one to never be okay with “down-time,” I see my later years either full of work, reading, animals, raising carnivorous plants, or cooking.  That reminds me, marriage will probably happen sometime in there as well…hopefully!

Christian Ryckeley

Ethan Sanford


Student Degree


Student Major


Student Minor


Student Hometown

Hamlet, NC


For as long as I am able to remember, learning has fascinated me.  Even as I began my college education at the nontraditional age of 14, I knew that one day I wanted to pursue a career in science.  When I stepped into my first class at UNC Pembroke four years ago, Introduction to History, amid a wave of curious stares, my passion for higher learning settled into place.  I was, and still am, certain that I never want to stop learning.  Since that very first day of classes, I have been doing my very best to be an active participant in opportunities—research, conferences, presentations, and academic honors—that will prepare me for graduate study. 

While at UNCP, I have enjoyed access to faculty that would be unheard of at a larger institution, and I have subsequently acquired a wonderful group of mentors who have played a significant role in my motivation to succeed as a scientist.  As an undergraduate, two of my most valuable experiences were studying abroad at Bangor University in Wales and completing an NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at UNC Charlotte.  More recently, I presented my summer research at ABRCMS, an annual biomedical research conference, in Seattle, Washington.  I am also fortunate to have recently had the opportunity to represent UNCP at the 50th annual National Collegiate Honors Conference in Chicago, Illinois.  Currently, I am performing research in computational biology with Dr. Conner Sandefur as a member of the RISE program here at UNCP, and I am working diligently on my applications to graduate school.  I am the current vice president of the UNCP chapter of TriBeta, a national biological honors society open to all well-performing biology students.

Dr. E.O. Wilson and Ethan Sanford

I once had the opportunity to meet E.O. Wilson, an esteemed conservation biologist, during a seminar at Duke University.

What I like most about UNCP:

I like the personal attention from faculty and the abundance of seminar-style classes that allow me to enhance my learning experience.  There are tons of opportunities available to well-motivated UNCP students who choose to actively pursue them.

Post-graduation Plans:

          I will graduate from UNCP in the spring of 2016, and I hope to have secured a position in a PhD program by that time.  Failing that, I plan to pursue a year of post-baccalaureate study in preparation for graduate school.  The University of Washington in Seattle is my top choice for graduate school, and I hope to one day obtain a PhD in cell and molecular biology from that institution.

Biology Club Helps the Environment

Biology Club collects wiregrass seed
Pictured above (from left to right): Mariam Quambar, Ashley Allen, Trevor Fingland, Dr. Maria Santisteban, Travis Omasta, Timothy Hinton, and Tenita Jacobs (kneeling)

On Sunday (November 8, 2015), students from the UNC Pembroke Biology Club participated in a wiregrass seed collection at the Calloway Forest Preserve in Southern Pines, North Carolina. The club, along with the help of other volunteers, collected almost 30 bags of wiregrass seed. The seed will be used for ground cover restoration in several Nature Conservancy (TNC) preserves. The Nature Conservancy conducts controlled fires in the Calloway Forest Preserve and other preserves to improve the quality of the ecosystem for native species of plants and animals.

Wiregrass stand

Without these controlled fires, the environment would not be suitable for wiregrass reproduction. The fires are carefully planned, taking place at specific times of the year.  Wiregrass seed collection takes place from late October until early December.

If you are interested in volunteering or learning more about the Calloway Forest Preserve, visit www.nature.org or reach TNC by phone at 910-246-0300. You could also visit the TNC sandhills location in Southern Pines: PO Box 206, 140 SW Broad Street, Southern Pines, N.C., 28388.

wiregrass collectors

Article contributed by Ashley Allen, President of the Biology Club

For more information about the Biology Club, click here.  Drs. Maria Santisteban and John Roe are faculty co-advisors for the Biology Club

Bagging wiregrass

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Prof. Mary Ash Earns Doctoral Degree

Dr. Mary Ash

For the last several years, Prof. Mary Ash has faced extraordinary challenges.  While teaching in the classroom and coordinating the undergraduate program in Science Education at UNC Pembroke, she has been actively working on a doctoral degree in Science Education.  On Friday, 9 October 2015, she successfully and skillfully defended her Ph.D. thesis at UNC Greensboro.  Her graduate committee was outspoken in their compliments of her presentation and of her remarkable writing skills and accomplishments.  She will be officially awarded the Ph.D. degree in Science Education in December. 

Dr. Ash's dissertation is entitled, Contributions to a Herpetological Community of Practice: Funds of Knowledge of Lumbee Youth.  A pilot study based on this work is to be published in December 2015 in the Journal of American Indian Education (pp. 54-75 in vol. 54(3)): “Almost a herpetologist:” The iterative influence of four Lumbee male high school students on an informal summer herpetological research field experience (co-authored by Ash, M. C., Carlone, H. B., & Matthews, C. E.).  Her data were collected during a summer herpetology experience launched by the HERP Project, a NSF funded, multi-institutional collaborative (UNC Pembroke, UNC Greensboro, and Elon University) that engages rural school children in hands-on opportunities to study herps (reptiles and amphibians).  Dr. Ash has been actively involved with the HERP Project since its inception in 2011.

Dr. Ash joined the Biology faculty in 2008 and has been teaching a variety of biology and science education courses.  Click either (MS Word) or (PDF) for a digital version of her dissertation abstract.

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Casey Haywood


Student Degree


Student Major

Environmental Science & Biology with a Zoology track

Student Hometown

Cumberland, Wisconsin


As a little girl, I found myself thumbing through any and all information I could find about animals and nature. I would spend countless hours in the woods investigating the amazing world around me. I was an explorer, and I did what all kids do best, science! I grew up in the country with my mom and grandparents, and over the years they have taught me that hard work and determination go a long way. It is no surprise then that my childhood fascination would lead me to my career in science.

I am a nontraditional, married, veteran student. I am also a full time mom. My daughter Rylan, now 4, has been my pillar, strength, and motivation. While attending UNC Pembroke, I have had the opportunity to work with Dr. John Roe assessing the effects of prescribed burning on eastern box turtle survivability in North Carolina. I am also President of TriBeta (Biological Honor Society), a member of the Biology Club, and I work at UNCP as a field lab technician. I strive for excellence both academically and professionally and would not be where I am today without the support of my family and the faculty at UNCP.

Why did you choose to attend UNCP?

Before joining the Army, I received my associate degree in Business Management. However, because I was unable to find work in a small town, I enlisted in the Army. While serving in the Army, I met my husband Jeremy, this eventually led me to North Carolina and UNCP.

What do you like best about UNCP?

UNCP has given me opportunities I may not have had at a larger university. At UNCP, faculty take a genuine interest in their students, which has allowed me to get to know my professors and to become proficient in my field.

What are your post-graduation plans?

After graduation, I will be working with Dr. John Roe as a part-time research associate, assessing eastern box turtle population trends in North Carolina. I also intend on pursuing a master’s degree (and eventually a PhD) in Environmental Management and Conservation.

Casey Haywood and her grandfather
Young scientist Casey Haywood and her grandfather


Books by Biology Faculty are Showcased at Livermore Library

Dr. Rita Hagevik Dr. David Zeigler
Drs. Rita Hagevik (left) and David Zeigler (right) publish separate books in science

Two members of the Biology faculty were the featured speakers in the University's Faculty Showcase Presentation on 29 September 2015.  The presentation was held in the Mary Livermore Library to showcase two new books -- Educating Science Teachers for Sustainability (June 2015), edited by Dr. Rita Hagevik, and Evolution: Components and Mechanisms (2014) by Dr. David Zeigler.   Dr. Hagevik is Director of Graduate Programs in Science Education and is an assistant professor of Biology.  She joined the Biology Department in 2011.  Dr. Zeigler is a long-time member of the Biology faculty and former Department chair.  He has taught an undergraduate course in evolution for many years.

Dr. Hagevik's book is the first published book that prepares beginning teachers to teach sustainability curricula while embracing a global worldview.  Originating from an environmental education forum, the book has 23 chapters, 70 authors from around the world, and four editors (including Dr. Hagevik).  The content is based on four pillars: 1) science learning in the local environment, 2) interconnections between the built and natural world, 3) educating teachers to teach sustainability, and 4) strong linkages between climate change and sustainability.  Dr. Hagevik has traveled widely to promote the book, speaking in such far-flung destinations as Australia, Helsinki, and Budapest.  The book is part of the Association of Science Teacher Educators (ASTE) series in science education, and it was published by Springer. To read more about the content, click here for a PowerPoint presentation.

As true of his first book (Understanding Biodiversity, published by Praegar in 2007), Dr. Zeigler's Evolution: Components and Mechanisms was written for the lay public.  He acknowledged that hundreds of books have been written about evolution.  What makes his book special is its reductionist approach.  Its 21 chapters touch on a wide range of topics, including natural selection, adaptation, competition, genomes, genetics basics, genetic drift, homology, symbiosis, and speciation. He confessed that his interest in writing is driven by his desire to learn.  He would like to add even more content to the book.  The interesting fossil bird that graces the book's cover (below) was chosen by the publisher, Academic Press.

Copies of both books are available in the University's Mary Livermore Library.

The book cover above for Evolution: Components and Mechanisms is from http://www.amazon.com/Evolution-Components-Mechanisms-David-Zeigler/dp/0128003480.

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Archive for 2014-2015

Archive for 2013-2014

RISE Students Attend State Science ConferenceCaleb Stubbs

David WimertScience Education Students Participate in Graduate Research Poster Presentation

Dr. Maria Santisteban Helps Land NSF Grant Dr. Maria Santisteban

Dr. David ZeiglerBiology Department Celebrates Dr. David Zeigler's Service as Chair

Psi Lambda Chapter of TriBeta Inducts New TriBeta inductees

Dr. Velinda WoriaxDr. Velinda Woriax Named Chair of Biology Department

Dr. Maria Santisteban Named President-elect of Dr. Maria Santisteban 
NC Academy of Science


Dr. John RoeBBC News Features Biology Professor's Research on Endangered Sea Turtles


Biology Department Enjoys End-of-Semester Party




UNCP Professor Ben Bahr Receives UNC Board of Governors’ James E. Holshouser, Jr., Award for Excellence in Public Service


Science Education Students & Faculty Attend
Regional NSTA Conference

Biochar Research Becomes Lesson Plan for Area Conference (NSTA)

Alzheimer's Patent Pending, UNCP Scientist Looking to Clinical Trials



Photo of inquiring students and biology faculty

Rush Your Major Draws Students to Biology Department



Photo of Kristopher WildPURC Program Offers Research & Creative Project Opportunities for Undergrads


Lizards, Turtles, Snakes at HERP Celebration child at HERP celebration


Photo of RISE students Molly Musselwhite and Tiffany Scott and others at NASARISE Students Enjoy Summer Research

RISE Students Present Summer Research Posters
Photo of Brandon Payton (left) talking about his RISE poster



Dr. Marilu Santos and Students Present Research in 2013

RISE Fellows to Present Posters of Summer Research Conducted in Dr. Ben Bahr's Laboratory

Photo of RISE students working in Dr. Ben Bahr's labRISE Program is Seeking Two New Undergraduate Researchers