I am currently working on my Honors project entitled "Analyzing Muscle Fiber Structure in basking sharks (Cetorhinus maximus)" with the guidance of Dr. Heather Koopman and Dr. Andrew Westgate. My biopsy samples were obtained from free swimming basking sharks in the bay of fundy. This project will provide preliminary data of muscle fiber structure in basking sharks. My research aims to provide data that can be later used in conservational efforts for this species.
Sophomore year during my academic advising with Dr. Koopman I expressed interest in undergraduate research and she graciously offered me a Directed Independent Study (DIS) opportunity in her lab. I started my undergraduate research determining the energy content of C5 copepods and lobster eggs using a bomb calorimeter. After my DIS concluded, I began my Honors Project under the guidance of Dr. Heather Koopman and Dr. Andrew Westgate analyzing muscle fiber structure of basking sharks. What I hoped to gain from being involved in undergraduate research was a better understanding of my field of study. The application of knowledge is pertinent in ensuring that one fully comprehends what they have learned--and undergraduate research is a great way to do just that!
My undergraduate research experience has made me more prepared for my future career and higher education. It has also made me feel more confident in knowing that upon my graduation from UNCW I will already have lab experience in my field of study. The most challenging part would definitely be adjusting to unexpected variables within the project you work on. I've learned a lot by working in the lab--from sample preparation and animal tissue staining procedures to analyzing sample sections using microscopy techniques.
My research experience at UNCW will make me a more viable candidate when applying for graduate study and eventually seeking a career because it has provided me the opportunity to understand the process of experimentation in a way that I would not have been able to in only a lecture setting. I've been fortunate enough to learn how to use various types of laboratory equipment--which increases the variety of projects that I would be qualified to participate in. After graduating from UNCW I plan on pursuing a Master’s degree and eventually a PhD. I can undoubtedly say that my research will have been the foundation for my future research both at UNCW and in my future career.