COF Scholar Cole Simons Representing OSU at 2022 ODHE Annual Showcase

September 13, 2022

COF Scholar Cole Simons Representing OSU at 2022 ODHE Annual Showcase

Cole Simons Headshot

Cole is a junior Choose Ohio First (COF) Engineering and Science Innovators (ESI-Science) majoring Biology with minors in film studies and Environment, Economy, Development, and Sustainability (EEDS) at The Ohio State University (OSU). He undertook the project Influence of Trees on Forest Soil Carbon while simultaneously conducting clinical research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. These two projects represent his first experiences with research. During his research experience, Cole became interested in sustainability and the environment leading him to pursue an EEDS minor. During summer of 2021, Cole participated in an internship with Franklinton Farms in Franklinton, Columbus. Franklinton Farms is a non-profit organization focused on enriching the community it is in by providing a resource for fresh and healthy food to the city.

In his role, Cole grew, sold, and gave away vegetables to the Franklinton community. He was fortunate to interact with numerous members of the community and other leaders in the area. These experiences have allowed him to see sustainability in all its dimensions- from working the soil with his own hands, to attending community events, to analyzing it from a scientific perspective. One of Cole's aspirations is to bring his knowledge and skills from his research areas, internships, and other experiences to his future career as a physician.

Cole Simons will represent the OSU at the Annual Choose Ohio First Showcase on Wednesday, February 16, 2022 at 2:30 PM. He is presenting a research poster entitled Influence of Trees on Forest Soil Carbon. In addition, he has mentioned that COF has given him access to numerous opportunities he otherwise would not have known about. Furthermore, working with Wonders of Our World (WOW) in his freshman year was a foundational experience as an incoming student. Lastly, he appreciates the COF 45-hour service requirement because is an opportunity to be involved in extracurricular activities every semester. In addition, it helped him to set his plans on the right path and become familiarized with his field early on his academic career. Cole also adds: "Ultimately, in COF I feel a part of something bigger and more connected to my fellow students".

  • Service activities you have participated in the past. 
    • C: I have participated in the following:
      • James Cancer Research Hospital - volunteered here since freshman year. I’ve served as a parking garage attendant and a patient escort. The clinical experience from this role will be invaluable in my future career as a physician. I’ve come to learn a lot about how a hospital operates and how best to interact with patients.
      • Ronald McDonald House- recently started serving as “go-getter” volunteer. In this role, I prepare the rooms for visitors and help with anything that is needed at the location. My family had to stay at the Ronald McDonald House for me when I was baby, so giving back to the organization that helped my family so long ago is the least I can do.

      • WOW - volunteered freshman and sophomore year. This experience allowed me to find my passion for working with kids. I hope to return to volunteering with WOW in my senior year.

      • Best Food Forward -  this is a non-profit organization/ student organization at OSU. Our goal is to help combat food insecurity around the OSU campus. To do so, we bulk order vegetables and resell them in $6 dollar bags to OSU students and staff. I serve on the leadership board for this organization. In my role, I do the ordering of the produce and help volunteer to put the bags together and hand them out. Becoming involved in this organization opened my eyes to the problem of food insecurity, which I really knew nothing about.

      • Kemper House Worthington - Kemper House is an assisted living facility for people with dementia. It is my job to interact with the patients. That can mean just talking to them about their day or catching up with them about what they’ve done since I last saw them. For patients with more severe versions of the disease, I assist with feeding them. If needed, I also help cook the meals for the residents. It’s been a special experience to interact with these people. Dementia can affect people in so many ways and I am glad to be there to help and keep the resident’s company and give back to Kemper House.

      • Festa - Festa is a church-based organization that teaches English to a large and diverse immigrant population here in Columbus. They offer classes taught by staff and volunteers two times a week. While the adults work on their English skills, Festa watches over their children, relieving the stress of finding a babysitter. I volunteer to watch the children. This entails, talking to them, keeping them occupied and helping them with any homework that they may have. Building relationships with the other volunteers here and the children has been rewarding and engaging.

      • Mentoring - I’ve been a mentor for incoming COF students for 3 semesters now. I made a lot of mistakes when I came into college that, so this role puts me in a position to put incoming students on the best possible track for success.

      • Safepoint - Safepoint is an organization that gives clean drug paraphernalia to people in Franklinton, to help stop the spread of disease and reduce the risk of infection. I volunteer here to put together kits that may include cotton balls, elastic bands, or other misc. items. I’ve spent a lot of time in Franklinton and have enjoyed my time there. Safepoint is a great way to help to heal the community that I hold dear.

  • How did you get involved in studying Biology and doing research? 

    • C: Ever since I was little, I have always been fascinated by the natural world around me. I used to spend hours glued to the tv watching Animal Planet and BBC nature documentaries. Steve Irwin, Jane Goodall, and David Attenborough were and still are my heroes. My interest in becoming a physician lies mostly in my experiences with doctors and in the stories my mother, who is a medical assistant, would tell me. I have a bicuspid aortic valve and a rare genetic disease called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, so I spent a lot of time in doctor’s offices as a kid. I grew to love the atmosphere of the hospital and wanted to become just like the doctors I always saw- intelligent, compassionate, thoughtful, and wise. By the time I graduated high school, I knew I wanted to study Biology. Owing to my diagnosis with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, I became interested in genetics and wanted to learn more about the disease. Much of the pathology of the disease is still unknown, leaving a lot left to learn. When I got into college, I knew that I wanted to do research on this disease to help others like me. I initially found it very difficult to get started research, as the whole process was daunting. Using OSU’s resources and the generous help of my friends, I was able to get into contact with a doctor specializing in genetics at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Dr. Scott Hickey.

      In the Autumn semester of 2020, I had initially contacted him about a research project he was doing on Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, but by the time I heard back, that project was nearly over. Instead, he offered me a position to be a research assistant on a new project he was working on entailing a retrospective chart review of thyroid disease in 22q deletion syndrome, a genetic disorder with numerous manifestations. It’s been a great experience to have been with this project from the very beginning. It has allowed me to get a grasp of all the behind the scenes work that you have do before the project is even started. We finally ended up starting the project, after some delay, in the Autumn 2021 semester and are still working on that project today. We hope to present our findings at genetics conferences and publish it in academic journals.

      In the Spring semester of 2020, I signed up for STEP [Second-Year Transformational Experience Program]. Initially I had planned to use this money for study abroad, but due to COVID I shifted gears into looking for a more field research project, as it felt like a more reasonable project to finish under the circumstances. I had wanted to do a field research project when I entered college as well, to get full-bodied idea of the different types of research. Furthermore, I wanted the project to be focused on the environment/climate change, as I felt that climate change is one of the most pressing matters that we are dealing with now. After speaking with my STEP mentor, Dr. Roger Williams, about what I had wanted, he happened to have an outline of a project that he wanted to get started, titled The Influence of Trees on Forest Soil Carbon. He offered it to me under the agreement that I would be taking charge of most of the work in the project. That meant that I was to gather all data, do data analysis and write the paper. We were able to start the project in the Autumn 2021 semester. All data gathering and analysis has been finished and I am now, along with Dr. Williams help, working on writing up the paper to hopefully publish it.