Biology Major Wins Au Sable Institute Fellowship

Katherine Patterson
Katherine Patterson, a senior from Park Ridge, Ill., is completing a bachelor of science in biology.

Katherine Patterson will spend the summer studying river and watershed biology in Michigan

CHICAGO (March 4, 2014) — A passion for science has opened many doors for senior Katherine Patterson since she began her studies at North Park University. This summer, the biology major will have the opportunity to dig even deeper into her chosen field thanks to the Harold Snyder Fellowship from the Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies. Patterson is the first-ever recipient of this award, which was established in 2013 to honor the legacy of the institute’s founder.

The Harold Snyder Fellowship award makes it possible for Patterson to take two courses at the institute in the summer of 2014. She earned the fellowship by showing promise and dedication to “do and teach science as an expression of Christian faith and as a commitment to serve and protect God’s earth,” according to the Institute’s press release.

“Dr. Snyder’s mission was ultimately what I want to do as well,” Patterson said. “To teach and inspire students through being in the field, in the wild, amidst the wonder of nature.” She will use the award to take courses in limnology (the study of inland waters) as well as watershed and global development at the institute’s Great Lakes campus in Michigan.

This will be the second summer that Patterson, a Park Ridge, Ill. native, will spend with the Au Sable Institute. In 2013, she studied marine biology and marine mammals at their Puget Sound campus on Whidbey Island in Washington. This hands-on experience, which she found to be “inspiring,” helped her identify that her passion for animals and nature is something she wants to share with others as a career.

“It was last summer that solidified that this is what I want to do and where I want to be,” she said. “I want to teach biology. I want to teach students and people all about God’s creation and how it’s so magnificent and wondrous.”

Patterson came to this realization, in part, through the encouragement and mentoring of her professors. "They've all been very supportive," she said.

Dr. Linda Vick, professor of biology, encouraged Patterson to participate in the courses offered by the Au Sable Institute.

“Katie epitomizes the ideals set forth by Harold Snyder,” Vick said. “She is so charismatic and engaged in everything she’s doing. She sees the connections between what she’s learning and experiencing, and is interested in bringing the ideas of science to life.”

The University has had a relationship with the Au Sable Institute for more than 25 years, sending students there for coursework, internships, and research experience. The Institute draws students and faculty from more than 50 Christian colleges and universities across North America, offering biology and environmental education through field courses. “Au Sable is literally a place where faith and learning meet, in a hands-on way,” Vick added. “It’s a natural extension of what we do here at North Park.”

“Students at Au Sable can really grow and have opportunities to broaden their perspectives,” Vick said.

Patterson has continued to take hold of opportunities that will enrich her knowledge and skills to be a successful science educator. The University’s Chicago location makes it possible for her to do things like volunteer at the Shedd Aquarium, where she is an exhibit interpreter. “I stand in front of the exhibits, armed with props, and teach guests about wildlife, about the animals, and about Shedd in general,” she said.

Her faculty advisor, Dr. Jeff Nelson, connected Patterson with an internship in the Cook County Forest Preserve’s wildlife department. She is working with a team to track and monitor animals for a variety of purposes, including disease control. “It’s really fun and it’s a great hands-on experience,” Patterson said. “I’m learning a lot of skills that you just can’t learn from a textbook.”

But Patterson is also stepping outside the science arena to enrich her skills and learning. She has been involved in the North Park Theatre program since her freshman year—acting, writing, directing, and even designing costumes—and is currently their company manager. She draws strong connections between her loves of science and performance, and envisions using her theatre skills for a career in environmental education.

“Learning about how people interact is more of the humanities side, but I also have the science side, and I love that. I think it brings such an interesting perspective, looking at biology from the side of art and human behavior and how we interact. And looking at interactions from the idea of science—how does that happen, why does this happen? It’s a cool meshwork,” she said.

Following her summer at Au Sable, Patterson will return to North Park for her final semester, graduating with a bachelor of science in biology in December 2014.

Use @npunews to follow North Park University News on Twitter. Learn more about North Park University.