Advice I Offer and Incoming Student

Advice I Offer and Incoming Student

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Over the fall semester, I worked in Professor Ma's fungal comparative genomics lab. The focus of my research was to observe the interactions between the wilt pathogen Fusarium oxysporum and the plant host Arabidopsis thaliana. Fusarium oxysporum is an asexual ascomycete fungus that infects the root of plants and causes severe vascular wilt disease in numerous plant hosts including tomatoes, cotton and bananas.
I have learned that in a university, most research labs have regular lab meetings where members such as faculty, graduate students, undergraduates, and post-docs, read and discuss research methods. I had to read some of the research papers that my professor had published, to get up to speed on what was going on in the group. I have to admit the papers were difficult to understand because of the scientific jargon and the many names and species that fungi can go by. But by having the graduate students and the post-docs present my advisor's recent paper it helped me understand greatly what the focus of their research was.
When I finally was able to make sense of my advisor's focus. I was given a mentor to follow and observe around the lab. Where I would be taking on my mentor’s position when she graduates. I spent most of my time using the resources that were located in the Life Science Building. By doing this research project I have learned a lot about the Fusarium wilt disease in the plant Arabidopsis thaliana. I feel that by having to present a paper every other Monday greatly improved my communication and presenting skill. I found out that it is true how in research you have to fail at least once. And I did fail, multiple times. It is extremely frustrating when you don’t get the results you expect. But I learned that mistakes can happen and those mistakes should still be noted down.
From participating in the research lab I have learned how to do DNA extraction for fungal genome and how to perform PCR. This research lab corresponded with my Biology 151 class where we were studying the topic of genetics and DNA. I also learned the difference between genomic DNA, mRNA, and cDNA, which assisted me in figuring out why the bands of the fungal primers couldn’t be seen in the gel that was run. I ended up learning that in this lab we were working with genomic DNA and not cDNA; which is made by the reverse transcription of an mRNA and does not include the regulatory sequences or introns that I needed.

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I realized that the answer to my problem was to just extract more DNA from the infected plant so that the bands for the infected plant DNA can be seen more.
- After participating in this research I have decided to change my academic plans. Before I wanted to major in Biochemistry, but I decided to make a slight switch to Chemical Engineer with a concentration in Biochemical Engineer instead.

- It was an exciting opportunity in getting access to a lab for research and being part of a team. I hope to continue this research during the spring semester and I definitely plan on doing some research during the summer after my freshman year.
In conclusion, some advice that I would offer to an incoming student is to always ask questions because graduate students, post-doctorate students, and other lab members usually have a good understanding of the procedures and the background research. No one expects you to know all the answers. And most importantly make sure you’re actually interested in the lab work, because if a student is not interested in the lab work, it will become quite obvious when he or she presents the research. It is very difficult to pretend when it comes to your research. Motivated students will work harder at overcoming obstacles.

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