Freshman Honors students dive into undergraduate research

From biology to computer science to physics, freshman Honors students have wasted no time jumping into research projects their first semester.

Freshman biology major Kirstin Maulding was working side by side with biology professor Dr. Bruce Riley before she stepped foot in a college classroom. Maulding, a native from Canyon Lake, TX, has had an interest in research since high school.  Her dream of becoming a biomedical researcher led her to apply for the internship program at Rockefeller University in New York City in-between her junior and senior year of high school.  After this experience, Maulding was craving more research opportunities. “Since there are very few internship programs available for students after they’ve graduated from high school but before they’ve completed various college courses, I sent emails to colleges and universities asking if they had any intern or volunteer positions available,” said Maulding. Riley responded to her email asking Maulding to join him in his lab to study the role of a gene in the formation of the otic vesicle (the early ear) of zebrafish.

With her passion for research, Maulding hopes to turn her undergraduate experience into her career by becoming a biomedical researcher.  Maulding will continue to prepare herself for her career with as much undergraduate research as possible. “Since I would like research to be my profession, any experience I can gain now will benefit me later on because I will have prior knowledge of concepts and techniques,” said Maulding. 

Trace Dressen, freshman mechanical engineer major, took a more non-traditional route to undergraduate research by participating in Disney’s “ImaginNations” competition.

DressenAfter joining the organizations Aggies in Themed Attraction Design (ATAD), Dressen learned of the team competition to create a themed attraction.  He and his team had to create an attraction with a unique experience based on a given theme.  “We learned from a former Imagineer and a current Look Development Artist that the most important aspect of any attraction is story, so we spent a majority of our time developing a story that was both engaging and convincing.  After we decided on a setting and characters, we started thinking about how to translate the story to an attraction.  Finally, we came up with a presentation and drew up some concept sketches,” said Dressen.

Dressen credits the competition with giving him an inside look to his dream career (becoming an Imagineer at Disney World), but also allowing him to meet experts in his field of study.  Dressen’s advice to other students looking to break into undergraduate research is to get involved with groups and organizations that interest them.  “These groups can provide you with more opportunities than you can imagine,” said Dressen.

Another high achieving freshman researcher is physics and computer science major Nathaniel Glaser.  He was thinking about undergraduate research even before picking a university to attend.  The opportunity to participate in undergraduate research is one of the main reasons he chose to come to Texas A&M.  Upon his arrival he sat down with his advisor to discuss his research goals and get his foot in the door.

Nathan Glaser“Research was a primary motivator for me to attend Texas A&M—the Physics department alone has about a 2:1 ratio of physics majors to faculty.  With these odds in mind, I spoke with my advisor and she emailed my resume to faculty researchers that shared my field of interest.  A few researchers returned my emails, and I was able to meet with them and select the one that best matched my interests.  Ever since then, I have been happily enjoying my research position in computational chemical physics,” said Glaser.

His experience in undergraduate research will serve him as he plans to continue his education at the Master’s and Doctoral level.  His dream career would be to become a particle physicist working to deconstruct the complex universe and work at the European Council for Nuclear Research in Geneva, Switzerland.

His advice to freshman or anyone interested in undergraduate research is to compile a list of your interests, visit your department’s seminars and colloquiums, talk with professors about their research, visit department’s websites, read professor biographies and curriculum vitae, talk with your advisor and prepare a resume of your accomplishments. “Essentially, there is too much research available not to get involved in research early,” said Glaser.

Contact: Chrystina Rago, chrysrago@honors.tamu.edu

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