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Ohio State Lima researcher prepares for life after graduation

Isabella Torsell applied pandemic experience to medical research

More than 12,000 students will finish their careers at The Ohio State University with the spring commencement ceremony on Sunday.

For Isabella Torsell, the ceremony will be the culmination of three challenging but rewarding years at Ohio State. A biology major at Ohio State Lima, Torsell arrived at the regional campus in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Isabella Torsell“I always knew that I wanted to go to college. I actually only applied to Ohio State Lima. I didn’t apply anywhere else, so I knew I wanted to go here,” she said. “But it was crazy with the pandemic. I graduated valedictorian in my high school and didn’t get a graduation. Nothing in the newspaper.”

In addition to starting college in the middle of the pandemic, Torsell was also starting a new job. She worked nights in the Lima Memorial Health System.

“It was crazy. Looking back, I’m like, ‘How did I do that?’” she said. “It was a great experience, though … [seeing] medicine was changing, and I want to go into medicine, so it was the perfect time to do it. … It was definitely very eye-opening and I definitely want to do this.”

As her school life slowly returned to a more normal experience, Torsell said she was glad she decided to attend a regional campus. The smaller feel of the campus appealed to her, as did the connections she was able to make.

“I knew I wanted to go to Lima because I live in St. Marys, so I commute and stay home … and the price is just incredible. I got the full tuition Rudd Scholarship. I graduate debt-free, which is great,” she said. “It’s such a small campus that I can really get to know my professors. I started some mentoring programs. I'm involved in clubs … and get to do things that I would not get to do on a bigger campus.”

As a biology major, Torsell said she had an interest in studying the impact of the pandemic and worked on an undergraduate research project with Joseph Green, a professor of psychology.

Green and Torsell examined political views, gender, attachment styles and emotional intelligence to predict a person’s compliance with COVID-19 mandates. The research project revealed a person’s political leaning predicted his or her compliance while the other measures did not have an effect.

“I wanted to do research with [Green] because it showed me that when I become a physician, I can see that this bias exists,” she said. “If you are more like this type of person, you’re going to be less likely to do this, and I can kind of shape the way I treat them.”

Green said the partnership was beneficial for both Torsell and the research.

“She seemed to truly enjoy learning about the various steps involved with our research project. It is rewarding to work with students like Bella who are highly motivated to take full advantage of the numerous opportunities available to students on the Lima regional campus,” he said.

Following commencement this weekend, Torsell is preparing for the MCAT and applying to medical school this summer.

“Similar to the start of my college career, I’m still unsure what my future holds,” she said.

She said her research projects have inspired her to consider a path in medical research.

“I love using the software to analyze the data and figuring out how to design a study. I now know how to read a research paper and three years ago it would have been like reading a foreign language,” she said. “The knowledge I learned from doing research will no doubt help me in the future.”

Her mentor said he is confident in her abilities following graduation.

“In addition to being a great student, Bella is an outstanding person,” Green said. “She is a ‘classic overachiever.’ She not only takes on many projects and volunteers for tasks but excels at them.” 

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