Group connects students with research opportunities

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Science is a subject some students avoid, but students in SURGe meet every week to talk about scientific research.

SURGe provides undergraduates with a way to get involved in research through lab work and volunteer opportunities. Each week, the club features graduate students and other speakers who have experience with research.

At their meeting last Friday, the group listened to Anna Yu, plant biology graduate student, discuss her work with diatoms, a type of algae. Yu’s research included comparing nucleotide substitution rates between land plants, green algae, red algae and diatoms.

She said she collected the diatoms used in her research from a water source on campus. Yu found four overlapping genes within an order of diatoms, known as Thalassiosirales, which supported her hypothesis of gene content being conserved in the order of diatoms.  

She also talked with other attendees about how the sharp exoskeleton of diatoms can be used in diatomaceous earth, a white powder material used in insecticides. 

The applications of diatoms were particularly interesting to human biology junior Hailey Driscoll.        

“Even though [diatoms are] small, they can be so complex,” Driscoll said.

Driscoll, like others in SURGe, joined because she wanted to gain research experience.

“I got into research through SURGe,” Driscoll said.

Yu emphasized the importance of acquiring research experience as an undergraduate.

“[Undergraduate research] actually was one big part of my personal statement when I applied to graduate school,” Yu said. “They equip you with critical thinking about how to solve problems.”

Members of SURGe are encouraged to get involved in research as undergraduates so they can be more prepared for graduate school.

“Our goal is to help connect students to research opportunities on campus,” said Pruthali Kulkarni, neurobiology junior and club secretary. “We bring speakers, faculty members and researchers on campus to come and talk to students who can then find out about the opportunities they have available to them.”

SURGe will have another meeting from 4-6 p.m. Friday with the purpose of training students in lab safety.