Meet Our New Staff Members

This year we have two new staff members in the Honors Office. Please read their introductions below.

Sara Baranczyk


My name is Sara Baranczyk, and I am a sophomore in the Honors Program at Minnesota State University, Mankato. I am double-majoring in Physics Education and Communication Arts and Literature Education. My goal is to eventually become a high school teacher, but I am not entirely sure which subject I want to teach (hence the double-major). Education is something that I am very passionate about and hope to help improve for future generations of students. Other passions of mine include food, literature, and art. I am really excited to join the Honors Leadership Team as the Media Relations Coordinator. I have always enjoyed writing and reporting, so I think this job is well-suited for me. Rachael Igo, the current Media Relations Director, is training me in to take over her position after she graduates. I am looking forward to this semester and having the opportunity to get to know everyone a little bit better this year.

Mariah Sletten


My name is Mariah Sletten. I am a freshman and student worker in the Honors Office. I joined the Honors Program and applied to be a part of the Honors Office team for many reasons – the main one being to obtain as many resources as possible to aid me in my efforts to make some type of a difference. I have a strong desire to become a social worker. I have enjoyed being able to listen to people’s problems and to do my best to help them since I was a child. This is the focus group I would love to help the most. The adoption process and foster care systems in particular are the two areas that I believe would allow me to strive to accomplish these aspirations. I would like to leave you with what will probably be the most important information to know about me: I am a huge book, music, and (drumroll please) Netflix enthusiast. I enjoy utilizing these tools to help me find my balance and unwind after a long day.

Summer Internship: The Opportunity to Discover the Density of Your Quantum States…

by Tatiana Soboleva


Being a junior in biochemistry last year placed me in the hot spot of academic development, and more importantly, the ardent desire to get outside my comfort-zone and explore new worlds. My prodigious excitement of this past summer was joining the summer research internship offered by the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Utah State University through a fellowship I received with the help of the Office of University Fellowships.

Utah STate

Applying for my fellowship was quite a challenging process, but a rewarding one! In essence, the application required a thoughtful approach towards several parameters about myself as student, an objective auto-analysis if you will: discovering what tools I had in my tool box that made me of interest to the programs I applied to.  This was the perfect time to work closely with the Office of University Fellowships and professors from my department. They offered me great advice in connecting with research organizations I was interested in, including potential schools and labs that offer such opportunities. When it came to searching for specific fellowships and putting together my application, I found the staff at the Office of University Fellowships extremely helpful. They reviewed my applications multiple times, giving constructive and objective feedback. They helped me to write and re-write my essays until I had a well-rounded product that reflected my best personal capabilities, goals, and motivations.

Utah state 2

I pursued an inorganic and organometallic synthesis research opportunity and became part of a new scientific family- Dr. L. Berreau’s research lab. This is not an exaggeration- by joining the program, I became a member of an entire family where everyone was responsible for me and I was responsible for my project.

My experience at Utah State University helped me to determine my research field for my ultimate PhD career. I absolutely fell in love with the brainstorming of reaction design, its practical execution, and the analysis of outcomes and potential improvements.

During my internship, I learned a lot about the manner in which graduate school operates. I did observe only the summer work regime of the graduate students I collaborated with; however, I got an accurate image of what I could expect to see during my graduate studies. I was able to ask questions about graduate school experiences from the graduate students I knew in the lab. That helped me to understand what that realm of academia looks like. To summarize graduate studies in a sentence, it is a hard work! Graduate students spend a lot of time researching and studying. Working with graduate students gave me the opportunity to hear the heart rate of the lab.


My fellowship opportunity let me clearly see the cracks in the walls of my knowledge in chemistry and biochemistry. It also revealed areas that I was interested in, but did not have a prior exposure to. I like to nickname my experience, “the diagnostic center for my academic car.” It might sound strange, but truly, it was exciting to be able to visualize what I need to remodel, refresh, repair and buy for my academic-knowledge car. I love shopping in this case!

A lesson I learned about the process of becoming a professional is that it is often staggered by a person’s inability to determine areas that need improvement. Gradually they become satisfied with where they are at; that is not what science is about! They have to be perpetually mobile; otherwise, the flame that was once lit in them will cease to exist with the lack of oxygen.

To conclude this short discussion, I would like to thank the scientific family of Dr. Berreau’s lab that adopted me for the past summer, showing me the path of my interests and giving me tools to get close to the destination; letting me perceive the density of my quantum states and inspiring me to extensively replenish my knowledge.