Ninth annual Classes Without Quizzes showcases amazing science

  • Apr 25, 2018
  • Homepage News, Alumni, Faculty & Staff, Research, Students, Biochemistry, College of Natural Science, Physiology

Image of woman with bluebook

More than 120 people attended NatSci's 9th annual Classes Without Quizzes on April 21 to get the latest on some of the research activities being undertaken on campus. Photo by Harley Seeley.

A group of MSU alumni, friends and guests spent a recent Saturday morning learning about “some of the amazing science being done at MSU today,” according to Cheryl Sisk, interim dean of the College of Natural Science (NatSci).

Nearly 120 people attended the 9th annual Classes Without Quizzes, held this year on April 21 at the Molecular Plant Sciences Building on the MSU campus. Hosted by NatSci, the event gives participants a chance to meet with NatSci faculty members and students, while getting an insider’s look at some of the latest research activities being undertaken here on campus.

The day’s “classes” featured four presentations that focused on: investigating whether fat or sugar should take the blame for blindness from diabetes; exploring the treasure chest of plant natural compounds; illuminating the “dark matter” of metabolomes—the ensembles of all small molecule metabolites produced by living things; and understanding the toxicity of dioxin. The sessions were livestreamed to allow for a broader viewing audience. To watch them, go to

All of the speakers in Saturday’s lineup have something in common; they all use mass spectrometry—a technology that had its origins and much of its pioneering work done at MSU, according to A. Daniel Jones, one of the presenters and a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, and of chemistry.

“I’m eager to remind our audience—and the world—that MSU has been at the center of scientific activities that are essential to what many of us do today in our labs,” Jones said.

“I think it’s important for people who graduated from MSU—and the general public—to know what we are doing here,” said Julia Busik, one of the presenters and a professor of physiology. “We work on problems that concern a lot of the population. I want to educate people and show how science, and our research specifically, can benefit society.”

Betty Schoepke (B.S., medical technology, ’63; M.S., clinical laboratory sciences, ’75) from Bath, Mich., attended for the first time.

“This is my first time at Classes Without Quizzes, and I’m so regretful that I didn’t come in the past,” Schoepke said. “I am awed at the vast diversity of research that’s ongoing at MSU. It appears there is now much more enticement for students to join in the research. I’m delighted with that; it’s usually a stimulus for what one will choose to do later on in life. I was fortunate to have a research project as an undergraduate, but I don’t know of anyone else in my class who did.”

Image of Dean's Research Scholar William Yakah with Classes Without Quizzes participants

NatSci Dean's Research Scholar William Yakah (right) talks about his research with (left to right) Dottie Hawthorne, Jo Ann Flowers and Dan Van Haften during Classes Without Quizzes. Photo by Harley Seeley.

Dottie Hawthorne (B.S., medical technology, ’71) from Petoskey, Mich., also attended for the first time. After receiving her B.S., she went on to get a master’s degree in library science from Western Michigan University. Integrating her medical technology and library science degrees, she held a job at Mayo Clinic as a medical librarian for 34 years.

“I hadn’t been back on the MSU campus for a while. I wanted to come to Classes Without Quizzes to plug in and see what’s going on,” Hawthorne said. “This morning’s topics were fun, interesting, and diverse. And to see the energy in the students here—it’s just amazing.”

Susan (B.S., biological science–interdepartmental, ’67) and John (M.A., educational administration, ’71) Scalabrino, from Battle Creek, Mich., attended for the second time.

“It’s interesting to see what’s going on in research at the university, because we are heavily invested here,” Susan said.  “All three of our children went to MSU!”

“We came today to revitalize ourselves, to find out what’s going on in science and to maintain contact,” John added. “The research these young people are doing is just amazing.”

Amy Winans (B.S., criminal justice, ’69; M.A., guidance and personnel service, ’72) from East Lansing, Mich., attended for the third time.

“I keep coming back because I’m really proud of the university and I love hearing about all the programs that I otherwise wouldn’t know anything about,” Winans said. “NatSci does a really good job organizing this event. I love learning about the students and their work.”

The day concluded with an undergraduate student panel of 2017-18 NatSci Dean’s Research Scholars sharing their research experiences.

“My favorite part of being at Classes Without Quizzes is the parent engagement. People who graduated decades ago still come back and support us undergraduates doing research,” said William Yakah, a Dean’s Research Scholar from Ghana majoring in neuroscience. He plans to enter medical school or an M.D./Ph.D. program after he graduates in 2019. 

“What’s striking to me is how they recognize the opportunities they didn’t have, and are willing to support their Spartan children and grandchildren to get those opportunities,” Yakah said. “To me, that means a lot. It also inspires me to come back and continue the same tradition, even if it’s 40 years from now.”

The 10th annual Classes Without Quizzes will be held in April 2019 and is open to all MSU alumni and friends. For more information, or to be added to the mailing list, contact Sara Ford, alumni relations coordinator, at


Banner image: The Classes Without Quizzes "bluebook," identifying the day's research presentations and providing presenter backgrounds, is a favorite take away from the event. Photo by Harley Seeley.

Share this story