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Sorensen-Kamakian Named Indiana Academy of Sciences Fellow

Associate Professor of Biology Erika Sorensen-Kamakian was named a 2024 Academy Fellow by the Indiana Academy of Science (IAS).

According to the IAS, “A fellow is a member of the Academy who has demonstrated service to the Academy and to the advancement of science in Indiana, service to education in science, and achievements in scientific research.”

“Being a part of that organization has been important to me, and so it was really nice to be recognized for my contributions, especially as a newer member,” Sorensen said.

After earning a B.S. in biology and Spanish from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and a Ph.D. in molecular, cellular, and developmental biology and genetics from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, Sorensen arrived at Wabash in 2016. In 2018, she joined the IAS and immediately made an impact.

From 2019–21, she served as the vice chair and chair of the cell biology section, and from 2023–25, she is serving as member-at-large on the Academy council and as a member of the committee for diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Sorensen spends lots of time in the lab with her students, helping them prepare to present at Indiana Academy of Science meetings.

Her crowning achievement, however, was helping found the Emerging Scientist Research Poster Competition committee.

“I was really looking for an opportunity for my students that work in my laboratory to have chances to present in a more professional atmosphere,” Sorensen said. “We wanted to make a competition for the young presenters, so they could be recognized for their exceptional contributions in research or their ability to present work to a variety of scientists not directly in their field.”

Since then, Sorensen has taken pride in mentoring students and helping prepare them to present their work in professional settings.

“I gained a real sense of agency and responsibility from presenting my work,” said Tom Oppman ’25, one of Sorensen’s students who presented at the IAS poster competition she helped create. “I had put in the hours from experimental design to presenting data and had been the driving force in my project. It felt good to be able to share my enthusiasm with others.

“She really helped get our posters to a point where we felt confident they were thorough and accurate,” he continued. “She spends a lot of time making thoughtful commentary and edits, and the end result tends to be not only a better poster, but a better understanding of how to be an effective scientific communicator.”

Sorensen hopes that her recognition will encourage her colleagues to join the Academy and help connect their students to a broader network of scientists in Indiana.

“A regional meeting is a wonderful opportunity for our students to get professional experience they can use to build their resumes,” Sorensen said. “It would be really wonderful if more of our students made an appearance and gave presentations at the Academy meeting.”

Sorensen believes the most important part of her involvement with IAS is helping create a supportive environment for students and professionals alike.

“Serving on the diversity, equity, and inclusion committee has been especially rewarding, because that’s also about making people feel included and welcomed,” Sorensen said. “I hope to be a person who can encourage other members to take on leadership roles to really keep the society moving forward with fresh perspectives.”

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