Utah State University

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In Spring 2008, I accepted an offer to get my bachelor’s from Utah State University (USU). Before that, I had lived in Illinois Urbana-Champaign for four years, where I finished my high school education.

A part of that decision is my boredom with the flat pancake-like landscape full of corn-field that you often see everywhere in Illinois. On the other hand, Logan, the home of Utah State University, is also a great city to live in – it is declared as one of the safest metro areas in the nation. I also get to experience the beautiful landscape that Utah has to offer, such that the view of mountains right in front of your apartment window.

Another big factor is my interest in research. Utah State University is a land-grant and space-grant university, that is classified as a Doctoral / Research University Extensive (high research activity) by Carnegie Foundation. Almost all faculties who work in land-grant institutes do more research and teaching.


Research

USU has the second oldest undergraduate research program in the nation, behind MIT, which many students take advantage of. For example, I’m currently working on a neuroscience research using rodents (rats and mice) to model neurological disorders or diseases, such as: Alzheimer, Parkinson, Autism, Narcolepsy, and many others. With my psychology background, I am grateful to be able to work with many other experts in other areas, such as bioengineer, neuroscientist, behaviorist, mathematician, to try solving neurodegenerative diseases.

USU excels in its interdisciplinary studies, where researchers combine knowledge in other areas to enrich their findings. USU even has a specific campus,“Innovation Campus”,where faculty members from different backgrounds (Psychology, Neuroscience, Bioengineering, and others) collaborate on research projects. One such example is the Spider Silk Project, where biologists and bioengineers at USU try to come up with ideas and create a bulletproof vest using spider genes and goat milk.

By being one of the 14 space-grant institutions in the nation, USU also partnered with NASA on space-engineering programs. Currently, we have more student space researchers than any other universities in the world.


Education

With nearly 170 degrees and 25,000 students body, USU offers more bachelor’s degrees than any other schools in the state. The “U.S. News and World Report” magazine  named USU’s College of Education and Human Services among the top 2% colleges in the nation.  The 2014 edition of “America’s Best Graduate School,” ranked the college 24th in the nation overall against all graduate colleges in the Education sector. In addition, the college was ranked fourth in the nation in total funded research dollars; we are the only school of Education in Utah to place in the top 50.

USU also has one of the best Institute of Antiviral Research in the nation. Many Indonesians who worked with Biofarma (the pharmaceutical company) , have come here to learn about the latest developments and do research on vaccines. USU also has good relationships with many major universities in Indonesia, especially Universitas Gadjah Mada and Universitas Indonesia, where some of our graduate students come from.

Students Life

Logan is rated in the top 15 for best college towns according to AIER College Destination Index, based on students jobs, places students go, and other factors that are essential supplements to formal education. USU is minutes away from two federally designated wilderness areas, which means students have access to thousands of acres of public land for skiing, hiking, snowboarding, and many more. I love hiking in USU’s surroundings – including visits to one of the oldest trees in the nation (estimated to be around 1500 years old). USU is also close to ten major ski resorts and six national parks, many of which hosted sites for the 2002 Winter Olympics. Other than the outdoor sports that you can do while you’re at USU, we are also also known for conducting the biggest Halloween party (“The Howl”) in the state.

Living here is not flawless. Utah has been known as the center for Mormonism, a religious teaching with strict rules on how people dress up, conduct parties, drinking, etc. Most grocery stores in Logan are closed on Sunday, with the exception of WalMart. Unlike in Indonesia where we can find mosques in every corner of our home, in Utah we have LDS (Latter-Day Saints) church in every blocks of the street. Even though the public buses are free, they usually stop at 8 pm and they are not operational on Sundays.

You’ll also meet missionaries who either greet you on campus or knock at your house. These missionaries – typically men wearing a white suit with name tags – will hunt you down and start talking about the Bible. Don’t let this paragraph scare you or hinder your decision on coming to USU, though. Once you get to know the environment that you live in, you will realize that the missionaries and most of the Utahns (this is how we call people from Utah) you meet here are some of the nicest people you’ll ever see. They are really humble and will try their best to help you in any of you situations they possibly can. Hey, if you are lucky, some of them might even speak in your language, because they go to different places for their mission trip. Yes, I have met few “bule” who speak fluent Indonesian and Malaysian.

Conclusion

One of my closest friends once said to me, you have not experienced ‘living’ in the US if you don’t get to experience the four seasons here. In Utah, we get to taste all of the four seasons – we usually will get six months of cold harsh winter, three months of hellish summer, and the other two months of complete randomness.

Every year, I get to see the Logan city grow more and more, with new eatery places we can go to, and also new building for classes and research center. This place is really growing. Overall, I am happy with the decision that I made almost four years ago and come to USU. Starting Fall 2013, I will be continuing my education here by getting my Masters and hopefully Doctoral, here at USU, and deepening my understanding and knowledge in the field of Neuroscience.

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Kevin Lawanto
Kevin Lawanto is a graduate student in the department of Instructional Technology and Learning Sciences (ITLS) at Utah State University. He has actively involved in writing numerous research-paper and poster presentations in numerous conferences. During his undergraduate study he had the experience working as a research technician in a behavioral neuroscience laboratory at the Utah Science Technology and Research (USTAR) facility where he involved in conducting rodents behavior analysis, perfusion, brain sectioning, and staining.