The True College Experience: The Pursuit of Undergraduate Research

The True College Experience: The Pursuit of Undergraduate Research

Nov 7
Lauren Quinn, ACES Media Specialist

My undergraduate research experience at the University of Montana was the starting point on my path toward a Ph.D. in invasive plant biology. I spent many long hours in the field and the lab, learning basic skills that would serve me well throughout my research career.

When I think about the 12 majors available in the college, it seems undergraduate students in ACES have almost limitless opportunities to get involved in research. Whether or not they go on to pursue graduate degrees in their chosen field, those students will be well prepared for whatever lies ahead.

Today’s guest blogger, Tanvi Majumdar, a sophomore in NRES and recipient of an ACES Undergraduate Research Scholarship, tells her #ACESstory.  

The True College Experience: The Pursuit of Undergraduate Research

By Tanvi Majumdar, Sophomore in NRES

In August of 2016, two packed suitcases sat in a corner of my room for three weeks; I was slightly prematurely ready for my first 11-hour drive from Maryland to Urbana-Champaign. I went into my freshman year knowing two things: I would be in the College of ACES, and I wanted to get involved in research. Even though I had spent an unreasonable amount of time fantasizing about college, it turned out that I, like every other bright-eyed freshman, had very little idea about what my college experience would truly be.

 Over the past semester of my sophomore year, I have finally come to certain revelations about what it means to be in the College of ACES and to be involved in research. I went into ACES simply because I wanted to pursue environmental sciences, but once you begin to delve into the ACES treasure trove, it is evident that the college has much more to offer, often attracting the envy of my friends in other colleges. Most importantly for my aspirations, ACES has encouraged and supported me in my quest to participate in research through its Undergraduate Research Scholarship Program.

This semester, I began working in Dr. Sarah Refi Hind’s lab in the Department of Crop Sciences. Working in her lab has been the highly involved, engaging research experience I had fantasized about. Dr. Hind’s lab is studying Xanthomonas bacteria, which inflict bacterial spot disease on tomato plants. Since non-motile strains of the bacteria go undetected by tomato plants, my project in the lab concerns evaluating the relationship between Xanthomonas motility and mutations in the protein (flagellin) composing the appendage (flagellum) that enables bacterial movement.

To fund some more expensive aspects of this project (involving protein analysis and microscopy) I applied for the ACES Undergraduate Research Scholarship. I earned a small but significant grant of $1,500, with additional funds for travelling to conferences and publication fees. With the support of this grant, I look forward to evaluating my hypotheses and potentially publishing my results in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

This research is one of the most enriching and fulfilling, yet challenging, experiences of my short life. It took some time to adjust to being so hands-on in the lab and to realize that each step of the process is not as easy as it seems in theory. However, troubleshooting has become part of the excitement, and with each step forward, my motivation only grows. I have learned a lot, and there is a lot left to learn, but there is no greater satisfaction than trying to solve a real-world mystery. I intend to continue conducting research in this lab, and it will undoubtedly be interesting to see where this project takes me next. More importantly, I encourage others to not only get involved in research but to also explore opportunities in ACES. I am exactly where I want to be right now, and nothing is more rewarding than that.

The True College Experience: The Pursuit of Undergraduate Research