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My Story Started at GRCC: National biology group backing Deirdre Mitchell's research into monarch butterflies

June 8, 2022, GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Plants and butterflies brighten summer days, but GRCC alum Deirdre Mitchell sees them with different eyes than most people.

Plants and butterflies – specifically, milkweed and monarchs – have been her research subjects during the past year at the University of Michigan. But she started studying them as part of GRCC’s Honors program, working with professors Matt Douglas and Leigh Kleinert and assistant professors Lauren Elliott and Nicole Evans.

“After graduation, I participated in UROP (Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program) over the summer with Dr. André Green II’s laboratory,” said Mitchell, GRCC’s Biology Student of the Year for 2019. “I continued monarch migration research into the fall 2022 academic year.”

The Society of Developmental Biology is sponsoring her continued research this summer, and she’ll carry on with her investigations for the 2023 academic year as part of the UROP Scholars Year cohort.

Mitchell credits GRCC – “the perfect stepping stone after high school” –  with sparking her passion for research.

“I have always known college was the best route for me,” she said. “Because of familial responsibilities, financial opportunities and distance, Grand Rapids Community College was a great choice!”

A major financial opportunity for her came in spring 2021, when she was one of two GRCC students who received a highly competitive undergraduate transfer scholarship from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. The Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship is among the largest private awards in the nation for students transferring from a community college.

Mitchell, who is majoring in molecular, cellular and developmental biology, has maintained her GRCC connections, mentoring students who want to transfer to U of M.

“GRCC offered resources that aided in the college processes while preparing me for a four-year university,” she said. “Lessons learned will help me well into graduate school.”

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