Undergrad does research

Caitlin Husted, Staff Writer

Students go to college in order to gain an education and become prepared for what’s known as “the real world.” They go to classes, study hard and take exams, all for the purpose of preparing themselves for what’s out there in the world.

But what about learning that happens outside of the classroom? What about practicing skills that you will actually use once graduated from college; the skills that will set you apart from other people in your field?

Senior biology major from Miami, Fla., Emanuel Paz-Perez, received a chance to learn these skills by performing research on “the phenotype expression of glossiness of Sorghum bicolor,” this past summer through the New Biology Fellows Program at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The New Biology Fellows Program is supported by the National Science Foundation, NSF, and its Research Experiences for Undergraduate, REU, program.

Students who participate in this program are exposed to many opportunities including, mentoring by the faculty, receiving teaching opportunities, multidisciplinary curriculum at a high-ranked University and the development of certain skills, such as communication, decision making and leadership skills.

Along with these beneficial opportunities, Paz-Perez was lucky enough to perform graduate work as an undergraduate.

When asked what his research included, Paz-Perez said, “My research entails genetic sequencing for the gene for glossiness within the genome of Sorghum bicolor using forward and reverse primers and testing for amplification of these primers through electrophoresis within different varieties of Sorghum bicolor that are homologous for the expression as well as varieties that do not have the expression of glossiness.”

The most challenging part of this research for Paz-Perez was finding a doctor who was willing to take an undergraduate into his or her program. Doctors themselves are already busy and the task of finding one who is willing to work with a student and help them with their research is no easy feat. It was also difficult for Paz-Perez to implement and design an experiment that a Doctor was willing to work with him on.

Although some challenges arose and obstacles presented themselves, Paz-Perez had a wonderful experience and learned a lot about his field and important facts about conducting research.

“I have been learning that research is very labor intensive and requires a lot of time and effort and sometimes the effort to create data for results is variable,” Paz-Perez said. “Sometimes you will not get the data you need to support the research, and this requires you to look at implementation design and figure out what went wrong, in order for you to get the data you need,”

Paz-Perez enjoyed the experience as a whole and enjoyed the recognition he gained from receiving a Honorable mention for his research.

After graduation, Paz-Perez hopes to attend graduate school in botany or ethnobotany. With this research under his belt, he is hoping that it will further his research potential to other research institutions because of his experience of performing graduate work as an undergraduate.