Take Five: Reflecting on Undergraduate Research at MBL

These students spent the summer at MBL working on mentored research projects through the National Science Foundation's Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program. Credit: Nora Bradford

"Take Five" is an occasional feature in which we pose five questions to an MBL community member about their career, dreams, and passions. Here we query eight students in this summer's NSF-REU  program, one of several undergraduate research opportunities on campus.

Why did you decide to apply to the REU program?

​​The summer is the only time of the year to be blissfully idle, being that we are away from school. However, I felt that use of this time would be better engaged in research of my field of interest, while gathering knowledge on the life of a scientist. The REU program encourages not only scientific exploration by placing you in a lab under mentors, but also funds weekly trips and activities that encourage bonding with other groups of undergraduates on campus. - Lori Campbell, rising sophomore in neural science at New York University

I am considering going to graduate school for neuroscience but I didn't have experience in a lab, except for science classes, before attending the REU program. I knew that I needed research experience in a lab to determine if graduate school is the right choice for me. - Christian Selden, rising junior in neuroscience at Reed College

What scientific question are you focusing on this summer and why are you studying it?

What is the effect of anthropogenic sound on auditory sensitivity development in the elasmobranchs (sharks, skates and rays)? We analyze larval elasmobranchs’ reactions to certain sound stimuli through their tail beats, in order to assess if they can hear it or not. By answering this question, we can innovate new resources to reduce the sound pollution that we release into the ocean every day (e.g., boat engines, ROV’s, AUVs). - Alyvia Martinez, rising third-year in biology and mathematics at Albion College 

I'm investigating the edge patterns of cuttlefish camouflage. Cuttlefish have three fundamental body patterns, and the edges of those patterns haven't been investigated. I am using a Matlab program to quantify the camouflage. - Eva Castagna, rising senior in biology with minors in neuroscience and Spanish at Williams College

Understanding the mechanisms of calcification in Astrangia poculata [a local species of coral] and their responses to heat stressors. [This knowledge] will be critical for the conservation of corals and their delicate ecosystems. -Alejandra Tapia Batres, rising senior in biology at Georgia State University


Kaitlin Webster standing in front of a presentation
Kaitlin Webster studied mitochondrial proteins involved in metabolism. Credit: Nora Bradford
Alyvia Martinez and Allen Mensinger (left) in front of presentations
Alyvia Martinez (right) studied auditory sensitivity development with Allen Mensinger from University of Minnesota Duluth. Credit: Nora Bradford

What has been most surprising to you about the REU experience?  

Everyone here is intellectually driven. With this widespread commonality, we can talk to anyone about anything and leave the conversation amazed by our newly gathered knowledge or our shared excitement about Earth's mysteries. - Lori Campbell

The variety of research that goes on at the MBL! Some of us are working with vertebrates, some are working with cephalopods, some are doing biomedical research, some are doing cellular and molecular biology, some are doing neuroscience research, some are here for courses. It is so easy to start conversations because there is so much to learn from every person you meet.  - Alyvia Martinez

How beautiful the Woods Hole/Falmouth area is. The beaches and marshes are so beautiful, the water is so clear, and at Stoney Beach you can see bioluminescence in the water at night. - Scout Crooke, rising junior in biology at Haverford College

Which aspect of the REU program has been most influential for you?

Attending the Wednesday Neuroscience lecture series and the Friday Evening Lecture series has opened my eyes to many new areas of science I wouldn't have found interesting otherwise. - Kaitlin Webster, rising sophomore in neuroscience & women and gender studies at Santa Clara University

The REU program has not only given me the opportunity to do research in a lab, but also to interact with the scientific community at the MBL. Exposure to the welcoming social atmosphere of the MBL has opened up my eyes to the ways we do science. From attending weekly lectures with passionate speakers and talking with scientists about their research, I have learned that science is just as much a social activity involving collaboration as it is an individual study. - Christian Selden

I really love working in the lab with graduate students. I know I want to go to graduate school, but I had no knowledge about the process or whether I should start with a masters or go straight for my PhD. The students here have been really helpful in showing me the differences between these two paths, and how to communicate effectively to help make connections that will [advance] my career. - Alyvia Martinez

How do you hope your experience this summer will influence your future in research/academia?

I hope this experience will open the doors for research in my field, as I hope to continue focusing on the physiology and evolution of coral populations, and as a first-generation college student, it is difficult to network in a field that is very new to me. - Kellie Navarro, rising senior in biology and environmental studies at Bowdoin College

I am excited to start researching! I thought that people were only joking when they said they got the "Woods Hole bug" but I'm already thinking of ways to come back for more science at the MBL. - Kaitlin Webster

Read more about Kellie Navarro’s interests and check out Christian Selden’s photography


NSF REU Program Details NSF REU FAQ