Peer Research Ambassadors

Graduating PRA Spotlight: Mahima Mehta ’22

PRA Grad Reflections - Mahima Mehta.Mahima Mehta ’22
Major: Molecular & Cell Biology; Minor: Spanish
2021-22 OUR Peer Research Ambassador

My Journey:

As the eldest daughter of immigrants and a first-generation college student, I knew my time in college was undoubtedly going to be different from what I’d seen portrayed in popular media. Now, when I reflect on my four years here at UConn, I don’t think I had the slightest idea that I would be graduating with so many wonderful experiences under my belt – let alone the abundance of research.

When I first met my BIOL 1108 TA,  Jessica Gutiérrez, I didn’t know much about research and what it entailed. My perception of it was just that it was something beyond my abilities. However, through a few conversations with her, I realized just how exciting research can be. More importantly, I learned that it was something someone like me could participate in. With her help, I joined Dr. Sarah Knutie’s lab and began studying host-parasite interactions in Eastern Bluebirds and Tree Swallows. As someone who was never particularly interested in birds or bugs, this was a new experience for me. I was fascinated by the questions being investigated in Dr. Knutie’s lab, but was afraid that as a pre-med student, I wouldn’t belong in the lab. I didn’t know the first thing about ecology. Thankfully, the biggest lesson I learned through research was the importance of being curious and asking questions. Through the countless opportunities to interact with graduate students and my peers, I was able to learn more about the other questions being investigated in the lab and just how much parasites impact our lives, as well as the value of my own input and ideas. Continue reading

Graduating PRA Spotlight: Chloe Zampetti ’22

PRA Grad Reflections - Chloe Zampetti.Chloe Zampetti ’22
Major: Natural Resources
2021-22 OUR Peer Research Ambassador

My Journey:

In a thank you card I recently wrote to my lab’s Principal Investigator, Dr. Jessica Brandt, I expressed how I didn’t think I was capable of the things I’ve now accomplished in my undergraduate career. As a freshman, I never considered research as an option for myself and now, it has characterized my time here at UConn. As a member of the UConn Ecotoxicology Lab, an IDEA Grant recipient, and a Peer Research Ambassador for the Office of Undergraduate Research, I have grown so much as a student, researcher, and person. I am eternally grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given and connections I’ve made, and I can’t wait to take what I’ve learned into my master’s degree where I’ll be continuing my research on mercury and selenium interactions at UConn for the next two years. Continue reading

Graduating PRA Spotlight: Lauren Rudin ’22

Lauren - PRA Grad Reflections.Lauren Rudin ’22
Major: Exercise Science; Minor: Biological Sciences
2021-22 OUR Peer Research Ambassador

My Journey:

I can’t say that four years ago I entered college with the intention of pursuing research. However, I can now say that my undergraduate and future careers have been shaped by my research experiences here at UConn.

When I first met my primary research mentor the summer before starting sophomore year, Dr. Molly Waring, PhD, I didn’t know how much her dedication towards her undergraduate students’ success would impact my professional life. Before entering her lab in the Department of Allied Health Sciences I had minimal research experience overall and none related to her field, but I had a strong interest in her passion to leverage social media to better the lives of pregnant and postpartum women and mothers. Continue reading

Research Is Fun! Except When It’s Not

Student Research Blog. Research Is Fun! Except When It's Not. By PRA Chloe.By Chloe Zampetti, Peer Research Ambassador

Research is often associated with the mental picture of a scientist doing bench work in goggles and a white coat. Your research project may very well involve just that! However, as many undergraduate researchers have established, there are so many different ways to conduct a research project. Undergraduate researcher at UConn includes field work, focus groups, working in communities, and more.

In the case of my project, the field is confined to the 13 inches of my laptop screen. I have been working to synthesize data from existing literature pertaining to mercury and selenium in fish tissues to draw conclusions about human health. Without any fish tissues or humans as a part of my investigation, I’ve been working with nothing but data for the past two years.

If you are working through a data-driven project that doesn’t involve much collaboration, I am sure you can relate to the frustration and isolation that comes along with it at times. Even still, I don’t couple my research experience with a sense of boredom or negativity. While it has involved countless hours behind a computer screen, there are things I’ve implemented into my research practices that have helped me maintain my overall well being and allowed me to enjoy the work I’ve done. If you are working through a project right now that is causing you to feel isolated, I hope my experiences are helpful for you! Continue reading

The Importance of a Balanced Plate

The Importance of a Balanced Plate. By PRA Mahima.By Mahima Mehta, Peer Research Ambassador

Going to college comes with a lot of new prospects — new friends, new classes, new clubs: new responsibilities.

Should you only commit to one thing? What if you’re interested in a bunch of things? How can you give them all your full attention? Although time management is an imperative skill, it can take a LONG time to develop — oftentimes through trial and error. Here are some points I have gathered along the way that have helped me with managing my time and being able to commit to all of the things I am interested in.

Continue reading

Tips for Presenting Your Research or Creative Project at Frontiers

Tips for Presenting Your Poster at Frontiers. By PRA Chloe.By Chloe Zampetti, Peer Research Ambassador

Your months of hard work and dedication to your research or creative project are finally summed up in a poster. First and foremost, congratulations on completing that huge step! It is now time to present your work!

It is both exciting and nerve wracking to be recognized at a poster conference or exhibition. I presented my own research project for the first time at the Fall Frontiers Undergraduate Research Poster Exhibition. To help you feel more prepared for your presentation, I am going to explain my experience so you know a bit more about what to expect, and then give you some tips and tricks on how to prepare your talk. Please note, Frontiers was not a competition-based poster exhibition, so if you are preparing for a competition, be sure to seek out additional resources along with this one.

Continue reading

National Scholarships & Fellowships: Applying

Interview by Elisa Shaholli, Peer Research AmbassadorStudent Research Blog - National Scholarships & Fellowships, Part 2: Applying. By PRA Elisa.

National Scholarships & Fellowships
Part 2: Applying

A Conversation with Dr. Vin Moscardelli, Director of UConn’s Office of National Scholarships and Fellowships (ONSF).

Click here to view part 1 of this 2-part series.

How can someone best strengthen an application for national scholarships & fellowships?

Start thinking early because many of these applications require not one, not two, but at least three and sometimes more, letters of recommendation. Finding meaningful letters doesn’t happen organically. You have to make that happen. You have to build these relationships, cultivate them, and sustain them. I encourage you to start thinking early about what your network will be because you want advocates.

For most of these scholarships, they have a scholarly component to them so you do need to take care of things in the classroom and be intellectually curious and you need to be aware of what’s going on in the world and engage as an original thinker in some kind of way. I think this is an important part for a lot of these but how much of an important part varies enormously across scholarships. For some, you need to be a good student but if you’re in the upper half of your class you’ll be fine. For others you need to be a truly great student – near the very top of your graduating class.  There’s a range of opportunities out there looking for different things and they weigh different components differently depending on their mission.  Again, it’s all about fit. Continue reading

National Scholarships & Fellowships: Are They for Me?

Interview by Elisa Shaholli, Peer Research AmbassadorStudent Research Blog - National Scholarships & Fellowships, Part 1: Are They for Me?. By PRA Elisa.

National Scholarships & Fellowships
Part 1: Are They for Me?

A Conversation with Dr. Vin Moscardelli, Director of UConn’s Office of National Scholarships and Fellowships (ONSF)

Can you tell us about the Office of National Scholarships & Fellowships?

We are the office that works with students competing for nationally competitive awards. Some of these are awards people may have heard of like the Rhodes, Fulbright, Truman, or Marshall. If you’re a scientist you may have heard of the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship or the Churchill. Most of these are for graduate study. People are applying to go abroad or to pursue graduate degrees.

We spend a lot of time working with students on application essays. We read essays, provide feedback, and work with students to try to get a sense of what the future holds for them and what the best path forward might be. The conversation tends to focus on the best path for you and the best opportunity for you. The fit is a really important part of this. It’s meant to be a learning process. What we do is try to help students think clearly about what they want to do and why. Continue reading

Your Mental Health Is More Important than Your Résumé

Your Mental Health Is More Important than Your Resume. By PRA Stephanie.By Stephanie Schofield, Peer Research Ambassador

One of the most beautiful things about UConn is the endless opportunities that await you. Whether it’s research, the astronomy club, a dance team, a club sport, or perhaps learning a language on your own time, there are a million different ways to fill your time when you’re not in the classroom. With so many avenues for your extracurricular interests, why not indulge in every single one?

Well, unfortunately, there isn’t enough time in the world to do everything your heart desires in college, if only there was! My biggest word of caution: you DO NOT want to learn the art of time-management the hard way! Continue reading

Reflecting on Your Interests and Motivations

Reflecting on Your Interests and Motivations. By PRA Claire.By Claire Fresher, Peer Research Ambassador

When getting started in research, it’s important to think about what motivates you and what is going to drive your passion for research. Do you love the process of finding solutions and answering questions? Is it a competitive drive to create something new? Are you naturally curious and enjoy learning new things? Do you thrive off having goals, deadlines, and objectives to achieve?

As college students, we are all motivated to complete our degree. What drives the motivation to go beyond our academic comfort zone and pursue research? Research takes work, and you want to make sure you’re doing something you are proud of and are learning about a topic that you want to talk with others about. Recognizing how research motivates you is a great place to begin your research journey. Continue reading