Stephanie L. Perez

Briefly describe your applied learning experience

In just a few words I can say this is the best experience so far during my college years. I am currently working with coccolithophores, which are phytoplankton and belong to the Haptophytes. I am working with five different species of coccolithophores and testing for silicon signals using x-ray analysis with scanning electron microscopy (SEM). I am testing whether they incorporate silicon into their coccoliths, which are calcified structures ovally-shaped surrounding their coccosphere. Previous studies Dr. Taylor conducted showed that three of the five species I am working on have silicon transport-like proteins, similar to those in diatoms. This is a new study and will provide insights on coccolithophore physiology and morphology.

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

I started by working on my Direct Independent study with Dr. Koester and decided to do my Honors project with her. My hopes for this were just what I expected, lots of work and always learning new skills. I work hard to do my best and I gained so much knowledge from Dr. Koester and Dr. Taylor. They are amazing mentors and taught me great laboratory and research skills.

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

I can't list only one thing because I gained so much from working on my project. I gained skills that will stay with me forever. I gained knowledge on how to conduct a research, I learned to interpret data and be partial to what I use to support my claims. What was most challenging was to accept that you may not get the results you may expect and you may face some troubleshooting along your work but that is okay because research doesn't always work that way. Just remember that you learn from mistakes and unexpected outcomes. 

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

This experience will definitely give me an upper hand on my field because I know how to perform a research project. Also I got to taste what working on a thesis is like and what it takes to complete one. If I end up working in a lab environment after college, I've learned that I can pull my own weight and don't rely heavily on my mentor- I have become more independent and gconfident.