• Area of Study Ecology & Conservation Biology

Where are you from?

Highwood, IL

What is your major and how did you choose it?

My major is Biology with a specialization in Ecology and Conservation Biology (ECB). ECB was actually not my major coming into BU! I started as CMG with no prior experience in ecology, but while taking BI 107 and an anthropology class called Animals Among Humans, I was inundated with the complex environmental issues that all life on this Earth are facing. I chose to study ECB to gain a deeper understanding of our climate, ecosystems, and the role we as humans can play as culpable stewards of this planet.

What’s your favorite Biology course & why?

Hands-down, the BU Ecuador Tropical Ecology Program! For anyone that likes the outdoors, TEP provides the most exploration of nature you will get in your undergraduate career through academic fieldwork and recreational activity. Due to COVID-19, I never made it to the Amazon, but other excursions include the Galapagos, the Ecuadorian coast, and Andean mountains/volcanoes. Furthermore, TEP allows you to design and conduct ~10 of your own research endeavors! I developed my creativity from brainstorming ten distinct ideas, flexibility from dealing with unanticipated changes and challenges, and collaboration skills from group projects and supporting my peers in their own endeavors. Kelly, our professor, is also one of the sweetest, most knowledgeable people from whom I’ve had the pleasure of learning. With such a small group of students (seven including me), I always felt included, engaged, and supported on this journey. TEP is truly the experience of a lifetime, and I encourage all of you to apply.

What kind of research have you done?

For TEP I have done both observational and manipulative experimental projects, as well as a literature review. My top three projects were probably “Galapagos Tourist Backgrounds and Effectiveness of Ecotourism Education,” “Distribution of Reef Fishes in the Galapagos Archipelago,” and “The Rights of Nature in 2008 Ecuadorian Constitution.” I’m actually continuing in the vein of that last one through my Senior Keystone project in the Kilachand Honors College, which is on the rights of nature in the U.S. legal system.

Besides my research in TEP and KHC, I was a Research Assistant for Prof. Bhatnagar in her soil and microbial ecology laboratory for a year. Usually in collaboration with our lab technician, I prepared biological samples such as soil and fungi for nutrient assays and PCR amplification of total genomic DNA. I also assisted with our plant maintenance/collection and replenishment of our nutrient buffers.

How did you get your research position?

After taking my first semester to adjust to BU, I was ready to pursue research. First, I took note of BU professors with my areas of interest (ecology, conservation, and climate change) and projects that could utilize my existing molecular skillset. Then, I emailed them to express my interest and experience, as well as attached my resume. My federal work-study award gave me leverage by acting as my own source of funding, so my potential PI would not need to use her own grants or go through UROP. After interviews, I decided to accept my current position.

My advice would be to seek opportunities about which you are truly passionate, as well as new experiences in which you might have no background. Every project and lab are different, but all can help you grow professionally. Research entails learning on the job, so don’t be discouraged if you’ve never heard of the organism of study or a certain technique.

How has your research tied into your classroom learning?

Besides the obvious connections to laboratory techniques and biological subject matter, research has helped me in the classroom by sharpening my problem-solving skills. Even when following a kit or well-established protocol, problems always arise in the lab and the field. My research endeavors have taught me to think on my feet, find the root of the issue, and brainstorm solutions.

What extra-curricular activities are you involved in?

I am President and co-founder of FLIP (First-Generation, Low-Income Partnership) @ BostonU, the club on campus dedicated to first-generation and low-income (FGLI) students. This year, we’ll be holding some fun events like a scavenger hunt, FGLI self-care workshop, and a professional headshot session! I’ve also been involved with Diversity in Law Association, the Queer Activist Collective, a couple theatre groups, and The Bunion.

Favorite BU memory?

I’m no sports person, but once one of my best friends dragged me to my first men’s hockey game, I was hooked. With support from the absolutely fantastic BU Band, the Dog Pound hypes the students up to chant and cheer in admiration for our team’s talent, opportunism, and power. As players collide on the ice and the opposing goalie fails to ignore screams of “See the teacher after class!” civility is checked at the door. Hockey games are a fun, energetic demonstration of our school unity. If you have a Sportspass, I’d highly recommend attending a game or six (that’s how you get a free jersey!).

Favorite dining spot on or around campus?

Marciano! I honestly camp out for the Create your own vegan entree–it’s the best, and I’m not even vegan.

Best place on campus to study or relax?

Kilachand Hall’s ninth floor study lounge for its amazing 360º views of campus and the Charles.

What’s one BU tip you wish you knew sooner?

Try new things! I entered BU thinking I would pursue exactly the same activities, opportunities, and events as I had in high school, but BU is a big school and Boston a big city. Make sure to explore everything both have to offer–from new clubs to $7 Red Sox games–as well as enjoy what you already know.

What are your post-graduation plans?

Gain professional experience for a couple years and then attend law school.

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