Alana Arnone

Briefly describe your applied learning experience

I am currently working on my honors project with Drs. Kinsey and Priester, exploring the lipid content in muscle cells of migratory vs. non-migratory birds native to California. In order to determine the amount of lipids within the muscle cells the software Image Pro Plus was used to tag micrographs created with the TEM. By setting up a grid over the micrograph I was able to tag lipid, mitochondria, myofibril or extracellular. The migratory status of the bird was unknown during the tagging.


How did you get involved in this applied learning experience and what did you hope to gain from it?

During my junior year, I took the honors seminar: survey of biological research, which introduced me to the idea of doing undergraduate research. After learning about the different areas of undergraduate research, I contacted Dr. Priester about doing a directed independent study in her lab. After my DIS ended, I expressed interest in continuing the research in an honors project. By continuing with the research I hoped to not only further my knowledge on the subject, but to also further the knowledge for the scientific community as a whole. I also hoped to gain more hands on experience by working in a lab. 

What did you gain from this experience? What was challenging? What did you learn?

Doing the DIS and my honors project allowed me to gain hands on experience while working in a lab, which I believe is very important, especially if one wants to pursue a career in biology. Being able to develop new skills and learn about different lab equipment was a great opportunity.  Also, by working independently I was able to overcome and trouble shoot problems that arise on my own.  The greatest challenge I faced was when the micrographs were blurry, and so it was difficult, but not impossible, to distinguish structures. However, with time and a lot of patience I was able to tag the micrographs. From my DIS and honors project, I learned just how important research is, and how valuable it can be.

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

Having experience working in a lab and conducting research while as an undergraduate shows the initiative and the drive to pursue knowledge outside the lecture hall. By conducting undergraduate research, I have set myself apart from other applicants. I have shown that I am able to work on a project and formulate ideas on my own. Through working on honors project, I have learned to identify different cell structures, write a scientific paper, as well as present my project to a number of different committees. Having done research has given me an edge over my peers when applying to graduate school, as well as the job market.