Summer Research for Biology Faculty and Students

Gift Amount

After spending her childhood in Texas and graduating from high school in Dallas, Regent Emerita Barbara Fuller ’72 moved to Chicago and chose to work for two years, with the intention of eventually going to college. It was during this time period that Barbara attended a talent search event sponsored by Silas Purnell, an incredible
champion for Chicago-area students, helping them gain access to and succeed at Ivy League schools, public universities, and historically Black colleges. At the event, she met an African American student from Luther who was representing the college, and she was very impressed with his passion for Luther and his self-confidence. Barbara thought, “If that’s how Luther prepares its students, this is the place I need to be.” Barbara enrolled at Luther, where she thrived—and was a founding member of the Black Student Union (BSU). Her mentors included biology professors †Russ Rulon ’58 and Phil Reitan, and while she didn’t plan to study medicine after college initially, an encouraging message from Professor Rulon gave her the nudge she needed. Barbara graduated from Rush Medical College in Chicago in 1975. She practiced in the northwest Indiana area, specializing in oncology and hematology, until her recent retirement. After attending the 50th anniversary celebration of Luther’s BSU, where she heard a biology student speak about her experiences, Barbara was inspired to make a difference for Luther’s Biology Department. In 2019 she established the Barbara Fuller, M.D., Biology Research Fund to support promising students majoring in biology, to allow them to engage in student/faculty collaborative research during the summer. Despite the adjustments to the college’s summer 2020 schedule due to COVID-19, Barbara’s $100,000 commitment has already made an impact. Three student/faculty teams performed research outdoors thanks to her fund: associate professor Kirk Larsen and Abigail Miller ’22; associate professor Dawn Reding and Kate Fetting ’21; and professor Eric Baack and Laura Duffield ’21. According to Kirk Larsen, “While Sampson-Hoffland Laboratories were pretty quiet this past summer due to COVID-19, we look forward with eagerness and much appreciation to future summers, when students can develop as scientists in our Luther labs, thanks to Barbara Fuller’s generous support for our biology program.”

Students involved in summer research on water quality in the Upper Iowa River, with professor Eric Baack