Engaging Minds, Transforming Lives

Inquiry Initiative

Kalyn Chacon

  • © 2012 Lance Holt

Kalyn is a senior Animal Behavior major from El Paso, Texas and highly engaged in research.

She studies whether animals can retain learned information through metamorphosis under the guidance of Dr. Jesse Purdy. The particular focus of her research assesses whether Xenopus laevis frogs are affected by information they learned as tadpoles.

During her own metamorphosis into a researcher, which has taken place over the course of two summers and two semesters full of laboratory research, Kalyn has learned a great deal about the inner workings of inquiry and the scientific method. “There are three extremely important parts of the scientific method that are not mentioned when we all learned about it in elementary school: patience, flexibility, and positive attitude,” she says. “In science, anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. The only way you are going to get through to the end–and have the beautiful final reward of real results–is to stay positive, have true patience, and keep an open mind.”

Kalyn’s love for “real results” is reflected in the moments she feels most like a scientist. “I do not feel very much like a scientist while I am collecting data in the field or conducting an experiment in the lab. I feel most like a scientist during the later stages-when I am statistically analyzing the data I have collected, or when I am sitting with 50 articles written by other scientists…,” she says. For Kalyn, being a scientist does not only mean cranking out data but also  implies working with others to dig deeper in the depths of human knowledge.  “To me science is such a huge group effort. It is innumerable years of hard work put in by people all over the world, all combined into one huge knowledge-base from which we can find connections and patterns that can tell us more than we ever imagined about the world we live in. If I can add my own piece of new knowledge to that framework, that would be incredible.” Kalyn’s passion for scientific inquiry seems to have only just begun!

After Southwestern, Kalyn plans to travel across South America for six months and then start a year-long apprenticeship at Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation in Kendalia, Texas. There she hopes to “gain experience caring for and rehabilitating every kind of animal imaginable.” Following this apprenticeship Kalyn plans to attend graduate school to obtain a Ph.D. in Animal Behavior/Animal Welfare. She dreams of obtaining Non-Profit Management certification so she can someday open her own wildlife refuge. Research and scientific inquiry is not out of the picture, though. “My long-term goals are to continue doing observational research while working for wildlife and environmental conservation.”