Graduate Student, The Meyer Lab
You work in a laboratory. What are you currently researching?
I am researching in the Meyer lab. My project is a bacterial optics project; specifically I am working to create bacterial microlenses and biolasers. To do this, I am engineering bacteria to coat themselves in polysilicate, also called bioglass. Inspiration for this comes from aquatic organisms – brittlestars are coated in microlens structures, which have been said to have nearly perfect optical properties, and sea sponges have internal skeletons made of silicate. Using the unique enzyme silicatein, from sea sponges, we are able to create bioglass-encapsulated bacterial cells. Additionally, I am working to manipulate the size and shapes of bacterial cells in order to produce a library of microlenses with different light focusing abilities.
What was it that originally sparked your interest in biology?
I had an AP Biology teacher in high school who we all called Doc, and he was hands-down one of the most influential teachers I had. He made every class and new topic we covered so interesting, that it just captivated me and made me want to keep learning. He even inspired my decision to attend the University at Buffalo for undergrad, since he spoke so highly of his time there. I had always been interested in science, but he really inspired my love for biology.
What advice would you give to prospective students looking to study in our department?
I want everyone to know that this department is so welcoming; we all want you to succeed. There are so many unique labs to work in and projects to work on. I highly recommend looking through the faculty directory to see what kind of research topics you think you might be interested in; it will really help you in your interviews and to decide on where you’d be interested in rotating once here. I did this – I wrote about Anne’s lab in my application, interviewed with her, rotated in her lab, and then ultimately joined her lab!
What’s the most important thing that you’ve learned working here and/or studying biology?
Biology is such a large and comprehensive topic. There is so much that is both known and unknown, so much you can learn, and so many specialties you can have. I have learned, through many classes and the many ups and downs in them, that it is okay to not have it all figured out and it is okay to be better at one topic over another. I used to get so hung up on and stressed about what I didn’t know or understand and used to take lower marks in my weaker areas of study way too hard. I think it is invaluable to note that some topics will come easier than others, and that we shouldn’t get bogged down by one subject area, or class, that won’t be our lifelong specialties. Don’t let one blemish undermine your other achievements!
How do you unwind when you’re not in the lab?
My favorite thing to do to relax is paint! Ever since I was little, I have used art to destress. Currently, I am immersed in acrylic pouring, but I also like painting flowers, animals, and abstract pieces. I definitely recommend looking at acrylic pouring YouTube videos if anyone needs to relax or if they just want to see something cool!