BY SEAN MARKEY
As a researcher, Karen Hinkle, PhD, studies “the fundamental intracellular signaling networks that govern how cells grow.” Among them, lesser-known proteins implicated in the growth of cancer cells. As a professor, Hinkle has mentored over 30 student research projects. As the official booster of academic research on campus, she works to bring in grant dollars, support faculty scholarship and student inquiry, and promote creative, interdisciplinary re¬search collaborations both on and off campus.
So it’s not surprising that when asked about the future of Norwich, Hinkle says its niche is to “double-down” on scholarship. The cell biologist says students here have access to teacher-scholar faculty mentors rarely available to undergraduates at large R1 research universities. She adds that taking on un¬dergraduate research can be career-making, if not life-changing.
To illustrate her point, Hinkle notes that the fundamentals of biology have been known a long time, what she calls “textbook” knowledge. But entirely new findings await discovery. Which is why Hinkle charges her biology lab students to undertake novel research. “They are discovering new knowledge, things that have never been known before by any human being.” The same applies to English majors writing new poems or engineering students designing new devices. Students must ask themselves questions and struggle to find workable solutions—sometimes to no avail.
Experiments fail; hypotheses are not supported; conclusions can be gray, Hinkle notes. “[Students] have to find it in themselves to be okay with that and to move on and pick themselves up and try it again,” she says. “Those are metaphors for dealing with challenges in life.”