The Colgate Scene
May 2005

Leader on ice, pro in lab
OT a non-issue for scholar-athlete Kristy MacDonald

Kristy MacDonald '05 in an Olin Hall research lab. MacDonald's resume already includes a Merck Fellowship for Molecular Biology Research, a soon-to-be-published paper that she coauthored with Ken Belanger, associate professor of biology, and several classmates, and presentations at two national scientific conferences. [Photos by Timothy D. Sofranko]

Kristy MacDonald '05 has never let a moment of her collegiate experience be easy. From playing Division I hockey to researching in the field of molecular biology, MacDonald knows only one variation of work: hard.

Coming from the small town of Cobourg, Ontario, in 2001, MacDonald was ready to take advantage of anything and everything that her new environment at Colgate had to offer. Coach Scott Wiley had recruited MacDonald and her high school classmate Amanda Barre to join the women's hockey team, and MacDonald already had aspirations toward a future in the world of human biology.

But although she brought a daily regimen from Canada that reflected her desire to never let an unoccupied minute pass, the new expectations from professors and the increased time commitment for hockey forced MacDonald to re-examine her former lifestyle.

"Having to learn how to balance things was really tough for me as a freshman," she said. But she seems to have been able to master that balancing act.

"She's really blossomed as a great student-athlete," said Wiley. "She takes a strong courseload and has really embraced the Colgate experience."

MacDonald began working with the Office of Athletic Communications and became a residential adviser during her sophomore year. She also began working with biology professor Ken Belanger. She said she always knew she wanted to major in science, but it wasn't until taking a cell biology class with Belanger that her specific interest started to take shape.

"He was the most amazing professor. He loved his class and his content. I got to know him really well, and he asked me to join his research group," said MacDonald.

Belanger helped MacDonald draw up a research plan for studying a protein complex that regulates the passage of substances in and out of a cell's nucleus. The plan then became reality during the summer following her sophomore year when she received the Merck Fellowship for Molecular Biology Research.

"She thinks really well, and works independently," said Belanger. "She can get a lot of work done on a project that benefits me, and for her it's a chance to work independently. In class sometimes you're just repeating what's said in a textbook. Here she's asking questions that nobody's asked before and collecting data that nobody's collected."

During her summer working with Belanger, MacDonald also volunteered to be a counselor at a science camp for girls. The program, run by Colgate physics professor Beth Parks in collaboration with Morrisville State College, teaches 14- to 17-year-old girls about the science behind the operation of automobiles.

Women's hockey center MacDonald turns to head up the ice during Cornell's annual visit to Starr Rink.

In her senior year, MacDonald skated in all 35 contests and was named to the ECACHL All-academic team for the third consecutive season. She leaves Colgate third on the all-time games played list.

The experience opened yet another possible avenue for MacDonald: teaching.

"I've always thought about teaching one day, especially kids around that age," she said, "so that was the underlying push behind joining that program."

In the meantime, she has continued to build an impressive resume stemming from her continued research with Belanger about how molecules are transported into the nucleus of cells. She made a presentation at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research in Indianapolis last spring and was one of just a handful of undergraduates presenting at the prestigious Yeast Genetics and Molecular Biology Conference in Seattle last summer.

MacDonald also co-authored an article for the journal Genetics, which is due out this summer. She worked on the article with Belanger, Amitabha Gupta '05, Christina Ott '03, and two collaborators from a Dartmouth lab.

At the same time, MacDonald's Raiders continued their growth from a fledgling program into an ECAC Hockey League threat.

"We entered at a really good time, because we were going to be the first Division I class," said MacDonald of her team's senior class, which has eight members. "I have seen this team make progress every year. I can't believe how good this team is now and how fast women's hockey in general is growing."

While helping the Raiders to their best Division I finish in school history this year, MacDonald refused to shirk from her other commitments, continuing as a residential adviser and helping out with the Little Sisters Community Mentoring program in Hamilton.

"There are very few students who have taken advantage of what a place has to offer like she's taken advantage of Colgate," said Belanger.

MacDonald is currently exploring graduate programs or teaching positions, among other post-Colgate options. One thing is certain: MacDonald's reputation for hard work and her willingness to take on any experience will impress those who meet her, just as it did at Colgate.

"She's one of the hardest working kids I've ever had," said Wiley.

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