SURF’s Up: Undergraduate Research

As I looked through my grant proposal for the 7th time, I reflected on how far I’d come since the beginning of my experience as an undergraduate research assistant. I had been working at the Agriculture Biotechnology Laboratory for 2 semesters before I started becoming curious and developing research questions of my own.

When I first heard about being involved in research, I wasn’t sure if I would like it, but I thought I would give it a try. I worked with a graduate student who was my main mentor and taught me everything I know about procedures, problem solving, and analyzing data. I ended up loving research so much that I thought I could find ways to become even more involved. I was introduced to the concept of undergraduate research grants at the Career Night hosted by CAHNR, but I was hesitant to apply due to the competitive nature of funding. Never would I have imagined that my research proposal would be accepted!

I applied for a SURF or Summer Undergraduate Research Fund award, in January 2014. The application consisted of a proposal, timeline, and budget. I was awarded the grant in April 2014 and funded to work this past summer.Yamini Research

My project revolved around 2 proteins suspected of being linked in a molecular pathway of Parkinson’s disease (PD). I worked with fruit flies, because they are easy organisms to stimulate PD in. I found that these proteins were in fact affected by each other, and I now suspect that they are part of a homeostatic balance mechanism during times of cellular stress.

The research lasted only 10 weeks, but I learned more about problem solving and patience than anything else during this time period. If you know anything about research, it’s that it doesn’t work most of the time! I had to learn this the hard way through many trial and error experiments over the course of the summer. It was exhausting, but well worth my results in the end!

SURF and other research awards are a great way to be involved in independent and intense research. The Office of Undergraduate Research has grants available for all fields of study, not just science! If you’re interested in exploring opportunities or applying for a research grant, visit the Undergraduate Research Office for more information (For ALL majors at ALL the UConn campuses).

Come check out the results of my research and other undergraduate projects at the Spring Frontiers in Undergraduate Research Exhibit in April 2015 at Wilbur Cross!