Tiffany Ernst ('17, Marine Biology)

Tiffany ErnstWhat do you do for your undergraduate research?

I am currently working in the Koopman laboratory looking at the melting points of biological lipids. My samples consist of purified lipids extracted from the acoustic fats of diving mammals, such as the pygmy sperm whale and Cuvier's beaked whale. Melting points for these tissue samples are currently unknown. My research aims to provide data that can later be used to look at potential trends in melting point based on dive depth, wax ester content, and/or nitrogen solubility.

What made you want to pursue an undergraduate research project?

Before even applying to UNCW, I knew that I wanted to do research in my field as a preparatory process for graduate school. I also wanted the opportunity to apply the knowledge I had acquired in class to a setting that challenged me because it is my responsibility to apply my learning.

How did you start your research project?

UNCW has a wonderful database of professors listed on the department websites where you can view a professor's area of study and the research they conduct. When I really became serious about getting a position in undergraduate research, I began reading through these research areas and stumbled upon Dr. Koopman's research interests. At the time, I wasn't looking to get involved with her lab, but emailed her to ask her more about her research and her laboratory. She emailed me back offering me an interview to work in the lab and I gladly accepted.

Was doing your own research fun? Be Honest.

Doing research is a lot of hard work. Sometimes it is not the kind of fun that many people think of when they consider hands-on learning. Overall, I have enjoyed all the time I have spent working in my lab and hope to continue for the rest of my time at UNCW.

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 undergrad has given me a stronger understanding of the scientific process that I don't think I could have come to appreciate by only doing lab work in a classroom setting. Creating methodology on your own and maintaining control within that methodology can be extremely difficult. Working in a lab has taught me to be meticulous about everything I do in a laboratory setting, from note taking to micopipetting.

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

After getting my Bachelors in Marine Biology at UNCW, I hope to go onto graduate school to earn both my Masters and my PhD. My ultimate goal is to be a professor at a university and to continue research in marine chemistry and biology.

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