Missouri State University

Wes Short

  • Major: Biology
  • Second Major: Biology
  • Hometown: Springfield, Missouri

Research led to a career path

"Nothing compares to working on the edge of known human understanding." 

"I had tried college before," Wes Short said, "but nothing ever really sunk in as something I would like to pursue permanently." 

So he joined the Air Force, which took him to California, Afghanistan, Honduras, Germany and Qatar. When Wes later enrolled at Missouri State, he still didn't have a specific career path in mind. "I had finished my undergraduate requirements," he said, "and there came a point when I had to choose a major. 

His interest in molecular biology ultimately led him to a major in biology and a role in the cellular trafficking lab of Dr. Kyoungtae Kim.

"I've always been an armchair science enthusiast, but I never expected to find a career."  

At home in the lab 

Opportunities to engage in research, even at the undergraduate level, became the foundation of Wes's college experience. During his time in Dr. Kim's lab, he's seen his work on carbon nanofiber technology published and studied the relationship between Alzheimer's disease and excess protein in the brain.

"It's very affirming," Wes said, particularly because "I didn't start right after high school and make all As."

Wes plans to build on this success in the Master of Science in Biology program, and he was recently awarded a competitive teaching assistantship, which will help support his graduate studies. 

Tips for non-traditional students

Since Wes followed a non-traditional path to Missouri State, he knows his experience presented certain challenges. He offered the following thoughts for others in similar situations: 

  • "Find something that you can be passionate about." He said, "College isn't all fun and games, but if you have a purpose for being there, it can pull you through the times when it's tedious." 

  • "Get involved with stuff." He particularly recommended research, organizations and projects related to career goals. "Sometimes non-traditional students are intimidated to get involved because they feel a little self-conscious about being older," but Wes said he felt well received, and his perspective was valued. 
  • "Try everything you can." Wes noted that the university exposes students to diverse experiences and perspectives, which provide "new adventures. You have a certain amount of time you will be here," he said, "and then you have to move on."