Meet a Student

Nick Rouillard

Why did you choose UNH? As I was conducting school visits along the east coast I decided to visit my Aunt's Alma Mater, UNH. Although it was not on my radar originally, all it took was one tour through the campus and I was sold. 

I felt at home there more than any of the other schools I visited around the nation. I also knew that I was interested in pursuing a career in either engineering or biology. Fortunately, my decision was made easier after discovering that UNH is home to excellent programs in both of those fields. I have lived at UNH full time ever since freshman year ended and I would not change a thing.

Did you know that you wanted to major in your current major when you arrived on campus? Originally, I was accepted into the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences through the early admissions program, but as my senior year at Chatham High continued on I realized that my true interest was in biology. 

Specifically, genetics drew in my attention. I have always loved understanding how things around me work and became enthralled as soon as I realized that genetics truly is the instruction manual to life. My senior AP Biology class started my fascination with genetics and I have never looked back.

What's been your favorite class thus far? My favorite class has to be Genetics Lab (Gen 606) taught by Dr. Estelle Hrabak. The course is offered to genetics majors after completion of Principles of Genetics (Gen 604). It was truly a great learning experience to be able to connect many of the same principles learned in the lecture hall with experiments performed in the lab. 

The experiments ranged from some of the classic techniques performed on fruit flies by Thomas Hunt Morgan at Columbia University up to recently discovered RNA interference (RNAi) techniques with C. elegans. The lab gave me many of the skills and understanding that I have been utilizing in my current position as a research assistant in Dr. Vaughn Cooper's lab.

Which UNH faculty member has had the greatest impact on you? I am lucky to have two faculty members that have had a significant impact on my learning at UNH. Dr. Estelle Hrabak, my professor of Professional Perspectives in Genetics (Gen 401) and Gen 606 mentioned above, gave me the fundamental lab skills that I will continue to use throughout my career. Also, in Gen 401 I realized that I wanted to go into research rather than the private sector. 

Furthermore, my employer and academic advisor Dr. Vaughn Cooper has been a great influence on my education. He has helped me to grow as a scientist by being a constant source of advice and by giving me the learning experience of working in his research laboratory that I will describe below.

What activities related to your major have occurred outside the classroom that has been most beneficial to you? Outside of the classroom I work in Dr. Vaughn Cooper’s lab studying evolutionary microbiology. I have worked under Marcus Dillon trying to better understand the effect of pleiotropy in Escherichia coli. This experience has been an incredibly valuable addition to traditional learning in the classroom. With most of the experiments performed in labs connected to lectures, the outcomes of the experiments are known and are used as teaching tools. However, actually attempting to progress the forefront of knowledge on a topic has been a very challenging, but rewarding educational process. It has given me great insight into the process and challenges associated with research.

Describe something non-academic about which you are passionate. In order to get better involved with the UNH community I joined the Tau Kappa Epsilon social fraternity. I joined as a member in the fall of 2012 and have been an officer since spring 2013. TKE has had a large impact on my personal growth and development. It has introduced me to my best friends and given me many unforgettable memories. One great example is the TKE Leadership Academy I attended in Colorado Springs during the summer 2014 break. TKE has also allowed me to give back philanthropically. This organization has given me the opportunity to be involved in great events like the St. Jude Give Thanks Walk, UNH Dance Marathon, and TKE’s annual Volley for the Kids.