Science students present summer research findings on algae genetic engineering

[USA] The research Saint Mary’s students had participated in over the summer culminated in poster-board presentations and papers on Oct. 7, 2017 at the 32nd Annual Student Research Poster Session and Award Ceremony in Brousseau Hall. Students had the opportunity to share their work and findings with their peers and other faculty members.

During the summer, participants conducted meaningful projects that relate to real world issues. Fabiola Zaragoza ‘19 said she spent her summer making plasmids that could potentially knock down a gene in microalgae to unlock microalgae’s potential for combating climate change.

Meagan Lasecke ‘19 examined the impact of the pratfall and gender biases on likability of professors in academia. “Gender biases in particular are very strong in academia with male professors tending to be seen as more worthy of receiving tenure than female professors,” said Lasecke.

Summer research had also given students the chance to practice the skills they learned from lab courses at Saint Mary’s, study their interests, and encounter surprises about their projects and themselves.

Maya Szafraniec ‘19, who was studying the Temporal and Spatial Trends of the Ozone Weekend Effect in Southern California, had the opportunity to work with Dr. Joel Burley, a professor in the Chemistry Department, on his collaborations with the U.S. Forest Service.

“It was really interesting to be a part of the communication between all the scientists and learn about how the work of an atmospheric chemist, such as Dr. Burley, can interact with that of a microbiologist studying fungi,” said Szafraniec.

Kirsti Dunckel ‘19 was also able to participate in field experience outside of the laboratory, learning how to take care of and work with living organisms.

“I wasn’t expecting to grow so attached to the tardigrades. They’re honestly incredible—they have the ability to go ametabolic (dormant) in the face of an inescapable stressor, and they stay like that for decades. Imagine if we were that resilient!”

From her summer research experience, Dunckel learned that she wants to go to graduate school after she finishes her undergrad at Saint Mary’s.

Students who participated in summer research experienced a lot of trial and error and learned to deal with failure and how to come up with better mechanisms for achieving desired results.

Moises Hernandez, who studied the structures of two proteins called mitochondrial intermediate peptidase (MIP) and Neurolysin (NLN), said he “had gained much more patience from research due to long experiment times and having to constantly repeat experiments that had not provided the desired results.”

“I had realized that three months of research might seem to be a long time, but in reality, it’s a very short time in terms of doing research,” said Hernandez.

“Research is a continual thing,” said Zaragoza, who is currently picking up where she left off in her research from the summer.

“Science is a lot more messy than the framework of a textbook makes it seem,” said Szafraniec. “It was never quite clear to me how much of scientific research is being able to pick up the pieces after everything falls apart until this summer, but I really wish it was something more people understood.”


Photo: Summer research program students present their results. (Sabrina Nguyen/COLLEGIAN)

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