Making Research Click

Michael Finkler uses a pencil to point as Bel Da Silva looks on

Michael Finkler and Bel Da Silva study the embryonic development of snapping turtles.

Michael Finkler ’91, Ph.D., “pays forward” the kind of hands-on research opportunity he had at K (thanks to his mentor, Associate Provost Paul Sotherland, who was teaching biology when Finkler was a student). Finkler is a professor of biology at Indiana University Kokomo. This past summer he hosted in his lab Brazil native Bel Da Silva, an undergraduate student (Federal University of Amazonas) participating in an exchange program called Science Without Borders. She assisted in Finkler’s ongoing research of snapping turtle embryo development. IU-Kokomo posted a story about the collaboration in its online newsletter, and in the interview for that story, Finkler paid tribute to Sotherland: “’I had a really great mentor as I completed my undergraduate thesis, and that’s when research really clicked for me,” he said. “That’s why I’m a professor now, because of that mentoring. In Bel’s case, I also saw an opportunity to get experience working with an international student.’” Sotherland served as Finkler’s SIP advisor. In fact, their SIP work (a productive collaboration that included John Van Orman) eventually led to the 1998 publication of a paper titled “Experimental manipulation of egg quality in chickens: influence of albumen and yolk on the size and body composition of near-term embryos in a precocial bird” in the Journal of Comparative Physiology. Seems that the seed of a K experiential opportunity like the Senior Individualized Project grows across time and borders. After all, the IU-Kokomo article notes that Da Silva intends to become a professor and researcher, the kind of scientist and teacher who will provide hands-on research opportunities for students from Brazil and other countries.