Bullard heads back to Irish roots

Ashley Bullard, junior biology major, will attend the National University of Ireland in Galway for 10 weeks in June.

Julie Lybarger

Ashley Bullard, junior biology major, will attend the National University of Ireland in Galway for 10 weeks in June.

Rita Forbes

In seventh grade, Ashley Bullard’s class did reports on foreign countries. She eagerly chose Ireland, knowing that her grandmother had been an Irish immigrant.

“I still have the three-way poster that I made,” Bullard recalls. “And now I’m going there.”

Beginning June 3, the junior biology major will spend 10 weeks conducting research at the National University of Ireland, Galway.

Bullard plans to work toward her M.D. and PhD. degrees concurrently after graduating from Missouri Southern. Having experience in research will be important to her future studies.

As an honors student, she is also required to study abroad.

“I thought, ‘OK, how great would this be, if I could study abroad, and simultaneously get some research in?'” she said. “It was so wonderful that I was able to incorporate those two things together, and have it match so perfectly.”

Bullard will be assisting Dr. Robert Lahue in studying the causes of trinucleotide repeats, a DNA mutation that can lead to a number of genetic disorders. She received a UREKA (Undergraduate Research Experience and Knowledge Award) supplement award from the Science Foundation Ireland to help fund her work.

“The research is something that affects people globally,” she said.

Bullard’s eyes sparkle when she talks about research.

“It’s really exciting,” she said, “and you get the sense of gratification when everything’s going well and you’re actually starting to find something that may eventually have an impact on people in general.”

Dr. James Jackson, professor of biology and Bullard’s adviser, said Bullard’s success in her professional goals is “almost assured.”

“Not only is she smart, but she works hard,” he said. “It’s incredible, the amount of stuff she has done.”

Bullard has collected research experience in areas as diverse as forensic science and plant pathology. Last summer, she researched the bean pod mottle virus at the University of Iowa, looking for patterns in the way the virus spread. She presented the results of this research at the Argonne Symposium in Chicago.

Bullard is currently completing research with Dr. Mel Mosher, professor of chemistry, in which she tests chemical compounds for their antimicrobial properties.

“She is a very bright student,” Mosher said. “You don’t have to worry about prodding her; she gets stuff done on her own.”

Bullard presented both the preliminary results of this current project and a project which she completed her sophomore year at the Missouri Academy of Science last week.

“You have the opportunity to see other students from throughout Missouri present the research that they’re doing at their universities,” she said. “And it gives you a feel for how to give presentations, and the kinds of questions you’ll be asked when you reach that professional setting.”

Bullard is excited to begin conducting research in Ireland. But she is not forgetting the cultural aspect of her trip, either.

“I want to try to integrate myself into the culture and see what it’s like,” she said. “And especially try to get an idea of how other people view us as Americans. Hopefully I can learn about myself and about others as well through the experience.”