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Hannah Cook

Lab Technician, The Uy Lab

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You work in a laboratory.  What are you currently researching?

This month I started working in the Trop Bio Lab as a laboratory technician where I am assisting in a variety of projects pertaining to social wasps. These projects relate to topics ranging from investigating the effects of parasitic manipulation to analyzing population genomics and potential local adaptations. I look forward to getting more involved in the research happening in the Trop Bio Lab over this next year. 

Previously, I was a part of the Werren Lab as an undergraduate researcher and spent three years documenting changes in the distribution of Nasonia parasitoid wasp species in nature. By collecting samples from the field and analyzing historical field data, I wrote my senior thesis on the range expansion and recent distribution changes of two Nasonia species in eastern North America. The thread that seems to connect my work so far is my interest in wasp ecology and host-parasite interactions.

What was it that originally sparked your interest in biology?

I remember a biology lab in high school where we simulated evolution by natural selection using different shaped tongs to pick up a variety of different sized objects. Referencing the variation in beak shape of Darwin’s finches, only the most successful tools were able to move onto the next round. This was such an interesting concept to me. During my first year of undergrad, my interest was cemented when I was able to learn more about evolution. It was also then that I realized how much there is left to learn about the life around us. It made me want to be one of the people that helped figure it all out.

What do you enjoy most about working here at the U of R?

I most appreciate the connections I have made with people in this department and the support I have received both as a student and now as part of the staff. There’s a lot of collaboration within the department and you get to work with many different people. I have always felt like my peers and professors have rooted for my success and they have played a large part in what I have been able to accomplish.

What’s the most important thing that you’ve learned working here and/or studying biology?

Don’t be afraid to ask for help! There are so many knowledgeable people around, and in my experience, everyone has always been very friendly and willing to help. Whether I have questions about a complicated protocol, want to discuss research, or am just looking for advice on graduate programs, there are so many people available to reach out to. All you have to do is ask!

How do you unwind when you’re not in the lab? 

After spending much of this last year and a half inside, I have had a lot of time to hone in on my cooking skills. Making dinner after a long day is a good way to unwind and the product is a nice reward! Besides cooking, I tend to spend most of my time with friends and family, taking walks around my neighborhood, or hanging out with my two cats.