Research, like any rewarding endeavor, requires commitment. Before committing to anything, consider your time constraints, your interests, your personal working style and your educational goals.
If you are planning to do research for course credit, make sure you have the academic prerequisites. If you require laboratory access, you will need a mentor or graduate student to provide it. If you don’t have 12 or more available hours a week to devote to this research, it is not realistic to sign up for course credit. See if you meet eligibility requirements such as GPA, ethnicity, citizenship or other conditions of participation.
College: Warren College, fourth year
Major: human biology
Minor: healthcare social issues
Research project: Activity-Dependent Regulation of the 26S Proteasome in Hippocampal Neurons by Calmodulin-Dependent Kinase II (CaMKII)
“Research is something I really enjoy,” says Carissa, who speaks from broad experience. She has tasted laboratory life as a student enrolled in the BISP 196 honors thesis in biological sciences program, as a recipient of a $1,000 Warren undergraduate research scholarship, and as a UC San Francisco summer intern engaged in clinical pain research. The next career stop for this busy senior is medical school in fall 2010.
Every undergrad comes to UC San Diego knowing it’s a great research school, but tracking down specific research opportunities can be daunting. “It takes a lot of initiative and following those little voices in your head that spur you to learn more about a subject,” says Carissa.
Her mentor at UCSD, assistant professor of biology Gentry Patrick, studies synaptic plasticity: the underlying cellular mechanisms of learning and memory. The Patrick lab looks at neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Lewy body disease—the most common causes of dementia in elderly populations.
Carissa read about Patrick’s research while she was working at UC San Francisco, recalled her experience as a freshman student in his introductory biology course, and approached him about serving as a mentor for her 196 course work. By shadowing one of Patrick’s Ph.D. students, she was able to learn the laboratory ropes, perform some experiments, collect data, and eventually generate some of her own ideas for future research. “I like the hands-on planning and execution of experiments,” she says.
Carissa’s neurobiology research project at the Patrick lab garnered a best poster award at the 2009 UCSD Division of Biological Sciences Inaugural Research Showcase. The showcase celebrates the achievements of undergraduate and master’s students conducting research in laboratories across campus.