Ana Mayren ('16 Biology & Chemistry)

Photo of Zoe VanderPloeg What do you do for your undergraduate research?

I worked with invertebrate embryos that were in a state of dormancy called diapause, and tested methods to increase hatching rates. At first, I teamed up with Avery Dominguez, another undergraduate student, and worked with several species, including the red-tail fairy shrimp, Daphnia, and beaver-tail fairy shrimp. After the initial hatching tests on these species, I began to work with rotifers as model organisms for my own project. My objective was the same: optimize hatching of dormant embryos. By the end of the summer, I successfully hatched marine rotifers, captured digital images of developing rotifers and developed preliminary methods for conducting hatching studies with these animals.

What made you want to pursue an undergraduate research project?

Ever since my sister became a cancer survivor, I made up my mind to become a doctor and help cure diseases, including defeating cancer. I came to UNCW with my head stuck in the books. I realized that I needed to broaden my perspective. Gaining research experience is helping me become more competitive for medical school.

How did you start your research project?

I saw that both the Biology and Chemistry Department were hiring. After being awarded work-study, I emailed both departments with the hopes of attaining a position that could benefit me in multiple ways. I received a reply back from the Biology Department saying that Dr. Covi was looking for a work-study student. So, I emailed Dr. Covi right away, and he gave me an interview. At the interview, he gave me two options: work at a desk with paperwork or work in the lab learning to use instruments while doing my own research. I chose to do research, of course. By mid-Spring semester, I started to work in the lab with a recent graduate of Dr. Covi's lab who trained me to work with the brine shrimp, Artemia franciscana. I learned important techniques, including dechorionation, embryo plating, embryo identification and microscopy. Once I got through the training, I was given the opportunity to be funded by SURCA for a summer research project.

Was doing your own research fun? Be Honest.

Definitely! I couldn't have asked for a better first job ever. After working in the lab, I felt like I gained something that many peer undergraduates haven't, which is having the experience of working with several different species and learning to use instruments like a true scientist. Being with other undergrads and graduate students made me feel like we were all a team. We all shared our experiences, insights, and joy. This to me was ideal.

It isn't required to do research as an undergrad, so what advantages do you think this experience has provided you?

Doing research as an undergraduate puts me a step ahead of other graduate school and medical school applicants. I am double majoring in biology and chemistry. Because I was challenging myself with two fields that I love, I thought I was already at the top of my game. I realized that having the research experience was something more valuable than course experience. With my research experience as an undergraduate, I will become more competitive than many applicants for whatever graduate school I choose to apply to.

What recognition and/or grants did you receive for your research?

For my summer research, I was awarded the Summer Undergraduate Research and Creativity Award (SURCA) for a faculty-student project and present my research findings at the Fall Showcase at UNCW.

What are your plans after you receive your degree from UNCW?

After receiving my degree, I will apply for medical school with the goal of receiving an M.D. Ph.D. and pursue a career that enables me to conduct research while becoming one of the best doctors the U.S. has got to offer.

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