Karalyn Holt

Health disco OG image
Karalyn Holt

Karalyn Holt

Health disco academic program
Third-year, Nutrition Nutrition and health sciences option, pre-med track
healthy disco cohort year

Hello! My name is Karalyn Holt, and I’m an undergraduate here at OSU majoring in nutrition for pre-medicine. I’m a transfer student in my junior year, but this is my first year at OSU. I was extremely excited when I heard about the URSA Engage program because I’ve always been interested in research, and this program is a wonderful way to be introduced to what opportunities are available here at Oregon State.

Choosing a project

When searching for a mentor to work with, I decided to stay within my college – the College of Health – because I wanted to see what real research looks like within public health. I found the flame retardant study on the URSA Engage project list, and I was able to reach out to Dr. Molly Kile, Sc.D., one of the study’s head researchers. The main objective of this study is to assess the impact that flame retardant exposure has on children’s cognitive development. This interested me because it’s a very unique subject, blending the fields of toxicology and childhood development. Even though this project is not directly related to my major, adding another field of science to my toolbelt will be extremely valuable to me in the future. My goal is to work with children who suffer from chronic disease, and this project was perfect for introducing me to the impact a child’s environment can have on their health.

Working with a research team

Going into this project, I honestly didn’t know what to expect – I had no previous research experience, and I was completely unfamiliar with toxicology concepts. The first few meetings with the research team were a bit intimidating because of this, but every single person there was extremely welcoming and invested in making sure my peers and I had the best experience possible. I found myself catching on to everything very quickly due to the encouraging environment! This encouragement was key as I learned more about flame retardants and cognitive development and created my own URSA project. The combination of field work, data entry and analysis, and conversations with the team every week came together to create an experience that was even better than I imagined I would have in those short 15 weeks.


Karalyn Holt research poster

Final thoughts

The highlight of my experience (other than playing fun, cognitive assessment games with kids every week!) was creating my URSA project and working with my mentor. While brainstorming a topic, I stumbled upon a question that needs further research in this field, and I even decided to continue with it for my thesis. In that research, I’ll investigate if there’s a correlation between where a child lives and their flame-retardant exposure. Being able to learn the research process and connect with my mentor was an invaluable experience, and I’m excited to work with Dr. Kile and her team in the future as I continue with this study. Getting out of the classroom and applying the scientific process with real data was super fun, and it’s something that I recommend every undergraduate do at some point. It’s a great way to learn by doing, and it gives you the opportunity to connect with people who are experts in their field. The connections and resources I now have through my mentor and her team are amazing, and I’m so thankful to everyone who has helped me and guided me on this part of my academic journey!

What was your path to OSU?  

As a homeschooler, I was able to start my college career while I was still in high school by taking classes for dual credit at my local community college, Folsom Lake College. I then continued attending FLC after high school for two years and earned my AA degree in nutrition.

I found myself at OSU because it provided the unique opportunity to major in nutrition for pre-medicine, which is extremely important to me. Now, I’m a Beaver here at OSU!

Why are you interested in research?

Research is what makes science move forward.

Major decisions, changes in policy, medical practice and almost anything else you can think of is influenced by research, making it a fantastic route to have a positive impact on the world.

Personally, medical research is my passion. I hope to someday be a pediatric oncologist, helping children battle against cancer.

Getting involved in research as an undergraduate is helping me gain skills to accomplish my goals, providing me with mentors who can help guide me along my journey and allowing me the opportunity to experience real research.

Why did you want to be part of Healthy Discoveries?

I’m excited to encourage my peers to participate in research. I’ve gotten so much out of the experience URSA has provided already, and I’m not even finished with the program.

Seeing and participating in research and learning how to work with a team on a study has been an amazing opportunity that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. I want other students to benefit from this as well.

What research will you be working on and with whom?

I’m currently working with Molly Kile and her team on the Interplay Study.

We’re investigating several varieties of flame retardants in our environment and how they may affect the cognitive development of children.

My role in this research includes working with real data, learning more about this subject, contributing with my own URSA project, and playing cognitive measure games with kids.


Karalyn Holt

What are your future career or academic plans?

After I finish my undergraduate degree at OSU, I plan to attend medical school. My goal is to become a pediatric oncologist.

Cancer is a horrific disease that no one should have to face, especially children, and my mission is to provide hope to them and their families.

I’d like to combine clinical practice and research to accomplish this, which is why beginning in research now to learn foundational skills is so important.


The Healthy Discoveries undergraduate research program is made possible with the generous support of the Patricia Valian Reser Fund for Experiential Learning.