Maya Drzewicki

Did you receive any recognition (awards, publications, scholarship) for your applied learning experience?
George Barthalmus Research Grant from the State of North Carolina Undergraduate Research and Creativity Symposium (Fall 2015), CSURF Research Supplies Grant (Spring 2016, Fall 2016), Hollings Scholarship, UNCW Jay Hensley Scholarship in Marine Science
Briefly describe your applied learning experience

As a freshman I started working in Dr. Taylor's lab studying the sensory biology of marine microzooplankton. Starting to work in a lab early in my undergraduate career was essential as it gave me valuable experience which prepared me for future research opportunities. I worked in the Taylor lab for 4 semesters and was awarded the state-wide George Barthalmus research grant for motivated sophomores engaged in independent research projects. As a junior I was able to attend the State of North Carolina Undergraduate Research and Creativity Symposium to present all of the research I had been working on since my freshman year. I am also a NOAA Hollings scholar and for my summer internship I worked at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in Santa Cruz, California studying the life history and ecosystem interactions of the ribbonfish "king-of-the-salmon." During my internship I was lucky enough to go on a 2-week research cruise to monitor the abundance of commercially important groundfishes. I plan to attend two conferences on the west coast to present the findings from my summer research. Currently I am working on my honors project in Dr. Scharf's lab studying stable isotope signatures in non-native catfish.

Did you receive any grants or other funding for your applied learning experience?
Scholarship or Fellowship
How did you get involved in this applied learning experience and what did you hope to gain from it?

When I came to UNCW I wanted to get involved in research as soon as possible. As a freshman I took advantage of the resources around me, and through my attendance of BIO 202 SI sessions, I found out about an opening in Dr. Taylor's lab. I immediately jumped on the opportunity to get involved in one of the many interesting projects occurring in the lab. I hoped to gain lab experience and insight into the research process while also learning about a new area of science. After I started working in the lab, my research career snowballed--I was awarded grants, the Hollings scholarship, and I even attended a conference. I've learned that if you take advantage of opportunities that interest you at UNCW and start small, you can eventually work your way up to more prestigious distinctions.

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

I cannot say how impactful my research experiences have been. Over the summer after my freshman year I worked in the lab and became proficient in the graduate-level techniques of electrophysiology and high-speed video microscopy. At first there was a huge learning curve, but I worked with supportive people who encouraged me to try my best, even if that meant messing up a few times before I got things right. As a Hollings scholar I learned how to utilize computer programming for data analysis, develop growth models based on fish morphology, and how to age fish--a very valuable skill in ichthyology and fisheries management. I also learned the ins and outs of working on a research cruise, such as how not to get seasick while sorting through a few pounds of shrimp and fish larvae at 3 in the morning! My Hollings internship really challenged me to be even more independent as a researcher; to answer my questions on my own or to seek out the right people to help me answer my questions. Ultimately, I gained more confidence in my ability to plan and execute my own research project which will help me this year as I complete my honors project.

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

I ultimately hope to pursue higher education in a fisheries science or ichthyology program on the west coast. I believe that my research experiences at UNCW make me a very valuable candidate for such competitive programs. From learning about how to work in a lab setting, how to write a grant, and how to work in various field situations, I will be more prepared to complete meaningful research on the graduate level. While working for NOAA fisheries I met a bunch of people who I respect and could one day help me in finding a job or providing assistance or further collaborations on research endeavors.