By Hayley Cox
Although 20-30% of Texas A&M University graduates indicate that they have participated in research during their undergraduate careers (hur.tamu.edu/Undergraduate-Research), undergraduate research may sound intimidating to incoming freshman students. Fortunately, undergraduate research opportunities exist in every department and college at Texas A&M and faculty members are available as advisors, making the experience much more manageable.
Two freshmen currently in involved in undergraduate research, Trevor Nelligan and Luke Bacon, have taken on the task with enthusiasm. Trevor Nelligan, an engineering student from The Woodlands, Texas, is currently researching in the field of artificial intelligence, more specifically with multiple robot systems. His research is conducted under the guidance of Dr. Dylan Shell whom Nelligan met during his first day with the Texas A&M fencing club. The engineering student said, “I have always had a soft spot for robotics, so I was eager to work with him [Dr. Shell] the moment I knew it was a possibility.
Nelligan is autonomously responsible for his research problem aside from the guidance of Dr. Shell, as he is not working with a graduate student’s assistance. The freshman enjoys the freedom that he has been given in undergraduate research. He said, “For my entire life as a student, people have been giving me due dates and rules. This is the first time anyone has trusted me completely to produce results without enforcement.” Nelligan just completed the first iteration code for his robotics project and is excited to see what the next phase of his research will bring. His advice for students interested in research was, “The worst thing you can do is nothing.” He said, “Professors do not come to you; you have to go to them. So just do it!”
Luke Bacon, an honors biomedical science and neuroscience student from San Antonio, Texas, is currently researching with Dr. C. Jane Welsh in her neuroscience lab. In Welsh’s lab, Bacon is in search of possible causes and/or therapies for Multiple Sclerosis and/or Epilepsy in mice models. The San Antonio native pursued the help of a faculty mentor when he first arrived at Texas A&M, while considering research as a future career path.
This semester, Bacon will be conducting a project alongside of a graduate student evaluating the therapeutic benefits of CLIP peptides in mice that are induced with Multiple Sclerosis or Epilepsy. He will be injecting the mice with the therapies and monitoring the development of their disease over the period of a few weeks.
Over the course of his research, Bacon has found that a large part of research is made up of waiting when dealing with animals, depending on their life cycles and development. His advice for freshmen interested in research is to continue to send a lot of emails and seek out opportunities. He said, “Not a single professor I corresponded with was rude, and every one I met with offered some way to help me get involved with in his/her lab.” Bacon said, “If you show genuine interest, they [professors] will want you.”
In the future, Bacon would like to investigate the link between parasitic infection and diseases such as MS or Parkinson’s. There is some evidence that these diseases are the result of viral infections and under-exposure to certain pathogens and he is interested in researching this link. Bacon is excited to continue and extend his research experience in Dr. Welsh’s lab over the course of the spring semester.
Honors and Undergraduate Research is very proud of the freshmen in research, like Trevor Nelligan and Luke Bacon, and would like to encourage students of all years to pursue this great experience!