Undergrad Research


Fall 2009- Right off the bat I applied for a paid research assistant job in the Neiman Lab at the University of Iowa. Little did I know, it was the opportunity of a lifetime and I quickly gained more interest in research in the biological field. We studied Potamopyrgus antipodarum, or the New Zealand Mud Snail, which was our research model to study why sex persists. I was given a lot of freedom in the lab (aside from my daily chores of feeding and taking care of the snails) and I ended up getting published as a co-author in the Heredity journal. Not only did I gain a lot of knowledge in the evolutionary field but I also met a lot of cool people who I would have never met if it weren’t for that job.

August 2011- I moved to Hawaii in and I applied for a Research Assistant position at Dr. Ruth Gates’ lab on Coconut Island. My schedule didn’t work out very nicely for first semester so I started in spring semester and did A LOT of traveling on The Bus. I worked with zooxanthellae, carried out DNA extractions and PCR, and filtered seawater. I intended to do my directed research in the lab, but things didn’t work out due to limited time availability from my mentors. Although it was a huge offset, it was a really good learning experience and things don’t always work out the way you want them to.

After taking the BIOL 403 class at Coconut Island (a class I would HIGHLY recommend) I met Zac Forsman from the ToBo lab and I decided to do my directed research with him. Currently I am sequencing some samples of a potentially undescribed species of Porites….(soon to be Porites thompsonii ) from Lord Howe Island.

I hear a lot of undergrad students say how difficult it is to get into a lab on campus and it is unfortunate that the majority don’t have any paid positions, but just put yourself out there and try to do what you want. Some labs may not have time to devote to undergrads, but others such as the ToBo lab always have projects to take on. Email professors and grad students until your fingertips bleed!

- Andy Thompson

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