Avery Dominguez (2014 SURCA Winner)

Photo of Zoe VanderPloegBriefly describe your research/creative discovery experience?

My project began with developing methods to hatch zooplankton species, including redtail fairy shrimp, beavertail fairy shrimp, clam shrimp, Triops, and Daphnia, so that I could do toxicology studies on a diverse array of invertebrate zooplankton. I conducted literature searches to see if these species had been studied previously, and I came across an article on research that tested the effects of pesticides on Daphnia. In this study, two chemicals were used to distinguish the effects pesticides had on hatching and survivorship of ephippia (egg cases) produced by Daphnia. I wanted to see what the effect would be like in a similar zooplankton. So, I modified my research into a comparative toxicological study that relates Artemia franciscana (Brine Shrimp) to Daphnia. I used Artemia because there are methods in place for efficient hatching of this species. I hypothesized that I would see increased prevalence of abnormalities, and decreased hatching rates, as is observed in Daphnia. If this hypothesis was supported then the results of this study could be generalized to other zooplankton populations. I have completed my preliminary tests and I am now increasing my sample size to eliminate test error. This is to make my data sets stronger and the test of my hypothesis more reliable.

What did you gain from this experience? Was it challenging? What did you learn?

My Career path is in the sciences and I will be able to apply the lab experience to my future plans. During my time in the lab I gained a vast amount of knowledge on scientific procedures, techniques, and processes. I've learned that research takes time, hard work, and patience. It was very challenging for me to conduct this research, because most of the techniques were still new to me. One of the most challenging parts was finding new methods of hatching embryos that have never been used in Dr. Covi's lab. One of the reasons I wanted to do research in this lab was because this lab is one of the only labs in the world doing this type of research. We are creating new methods and discovering new natural phenomena that have never been documented. I believe this is what makes the research worthwhile.

How did you get involved in this research project?

I got involved in this project because I was interested in undergraduate research and Dr. Covi presented me with the opportunity to work in his lab. I looked into it further and found his research quite interesting. I was highly focused with my studies despite the fact that I was unsure of my career path. I talked with him about his research and I told him that I was interested in working in his lab. I have always loved the sciences so I was fortunate to start working in the lab the spring of my freshman year.

In what way will your research experience help make you a more viable candidate when you are seeking a job or applying for graduate study?

I will be a more viable candidate for any research position in a lab setting because of the experience I now have. These potential jobs include positions such as clinical researcher, lab technician, or a research scientist. I started working in the lab during my freshman year, so I have more time spent in this environment than most other applicants. I have learned practical applications that can be used beyond the classroom such as solution preparation, sterile techniques, how to develop new methods, proper management of chemicals, data analysis and how to analyze related literature. These techniques can be used in a variety of settings that could be beneficial to my future plans, especially in the medical field.

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