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BIT SURE Mentor Profiles

Meet the mentors for the 2023 BIT SURE program! All of our mentors are passionate teachers and mentors who are excited to help students succeed in research. Below is a list of questions that we hope will help you get to know the mentors and give you a better idea of what to expect, should you participate in our program.

What is your research area and why are you passionate about it?

I love learning about the potential of the microbes that are around us. We use high-throughput approaches including sequencing and screening to uncover useful strains and genetic sequences in some of the understudied microbes we share our living spaces with… I believe in co-creating and sharing knowledge, and science communication and OPEN data/FAIR principles are integral to this.

What do you like most about research?

I like learning new things from students. I enjoy learning new platforms and tools to analyze the genomes and communities of microbes we often overlook.

How would you describe your mentoring style?

Over the years, I have learned that my mentoring style is based on a mutual agreement and expectation that it is your project. I will not ‘provide’ a research experience because then I am only asking you to do work without your intellectual investment. I want both of us to work together to determine what questions you have that we can attempt to answer and learn from in a reasonable time frame. The goal is to empower you to use teamwork, self-directed learning, and the many resources we are fortunate to have at NC State to discover something that baffles you!

What is one piece of advice that you would give to students beginning research?

Failure is an opportunity to learn how to improve. Forgetting is a chance to work harder to retrieve and search for new knowledge and connections. Research, at least in my experience, is not a linear process: it is a continuous cycle of learning from others and returning to previous questions to expand on what we can find and learn. Enter the research cycle and be prepared to learn about what you never previously considered!

What is your research area and why are you passionate about it?

I have always loved DNA! It looks super cool and it is so fundamental to cellular function. My research explores ways that cells preserve genome integrity, meaning preventing and fixing any damage that inevitably occurs to the DNA.

What do you like most about research?

Learning something new! When you run an experiment and get good results, you know something that no one else in the world knows! And then you get to share with other people who geek out over the same things.

How would you describe your mentoring style?

I would describe my mentoring style as “Try it first.” I’m happy to explain concepts, show students where everything is located, and demonstrate as needed, but I like to have them make a solid effort to find the appropriate information or lab reagents first. This helps them build independent research skills.

What is one piece of advice that you would give to students beginning research?

I would definitely say to embrace failure! Experiments rarely go smoothly the first time, so it’s important to make sure you’re learning from and building off of that to improve. Also, take really good notes!

What is your research area and why are you passionate about it?

I work on genetic engineering of algae and bacteria viruses and their hosts in order to probe virus host interactions and viral phenotypes. I am passionate about this research because viruses are the most numerous biological entity on the planet and yet we have so few viruses that we can genetically manipulate for study. I aim to develop molecular tools so that we can probe the mysteries of how these little puppetmasters manipulate their hosts and the environment around them.

What do you like most about research?

I like the inspiration that comes with doing research. There is always a next set of questions that spin out of your data or circumstances, and I really enjoy seeing the possibilities unraveling before me.

How would you describe your mentoring style?

I like to work closely with my mentees. I will often start them working side by side with me and as they become confident in their skills I give them more distance to start splitting off into an independent project. My goal is always to help my mentee become an independent researcher, but just because the researcher is independent doesn’t mean there is no contact between mentor and mentee.

What is one piece of advice that you would give to students beginning research?

Ask questions. Don’t be afraid that people will judge you for not knowing something. We are all in the business of answering questions so we expect that those who are new to research will have a lot of questions.

What is your research area and why are you passionate about it?

Cancer biology, experimental chemotherapeutics, pharmacology. I love deciphering the biochemistry of the human body and using that knowledge not only to understand what causes disease but also to improve human health.

What do you like most about research?

Every day in the lab brings something new. It might be an exciting new finding or a challenge that needs to be overcome. I enjoy the adventure and mental stimulation that working in the lab brings and sharing that journey (ups and downs) with my trainees.

How would you describe your mentoring style?

By default I am a hands-off mentor. I want to enable my students to pursue independent or semi-independent research by the end of their tenure in my lab. However, I understand that all my students bring their own unique personalities and perspectives to the lab. I therefore maintain a very open communication policy with my trainees so we can work together to modify a mentoring plan that is best for each of them. We revisit this plan frequently since trainees’ needs change as they progress in their lab experiences.

What is one piece of advice that you would give to students beginning research?

Don’t be afraid to take risks or tackle challenges. Science is an iterative process and much of what we do in the lab does not work (even for the most seasoned scientists). Keep trying and don’t give up!

What is your research area and why are you passionate about it?

My PhD research was in developmental biology- it was amazing to see how a single cell can divide, determine polarity (ie left/right or up/down), and develop into a mature organism based on signaling (communication) through proteins. My current research projects are more focused on assay development. It’s essentially applying a similar set of conditions/algorithms to new molecules; however, no two assays work exactly the same. They all have their unique quirks and it’s fun to figure out what they are.

What do you like most about research?

I like being able to follow my curiosity and learn new things. And I love working with others to troubleshoot and solve problems!

How would you describe your mentoring style?

I am somehow simultaneously hands-on and hands-off. I like to have frequent meetings with my mentees to check on experimental and professional progress. At the same time, once my mentees are confident to work on their own in the lab, I like to let them really take charge of their schedules and experimental designs. I see myself as a resource for when a mentee gets really stuck- I’m here to help bounce ideas and troubleshoot, not to tell them exactly what to do.

What is one piece of advice that you would give to students beginning research?

Don’t be afraid to mess up in lab. We can still data from “failed” experiments, so long as careful notes have been kept about what went wrong. And, sometimes, we find unexpected results this way!

What is your research area and why are you passionate about it?

I think developmental biology and understanding gene regulation is really exciting! My past research focused on how gene regulatory changes can occur over evolutionary time in really important developmental processes. I love learning about how transcription works and thinking about gene regulation on a genome-wide scale. There is so much that we can learn from studying the transcriptome and it’s really fun to dig into large data sets and think about the underlying biology based on what we find!

What do you like most about research?

I really like collaborating and problem solving to think through new research questions! The process of discovery is really exciting and I find that getting to collaborate with others and share findings is the best part of research! I love that every time I walk into the lab (or computer room) that I get to learn something new from the science or from other researchers!

How would you describe your mentoring style?

I want my mentees to develop confidence and excitement in the projects we work on in the lab. I will provide support, frequent meetings, and am always happy to answer questions. I also want my mentees to develop independence in the lab so while I always welcome questions, I try to give problem solving guidance rather than just telling them the answer. Troubleshooting things (while sometimes frustrating) can be a fun part of science!

What is one piece of advice that you would give to students beginning research?

Don’t hesitate to ask questions! I was not always confident when asking questions in a scientific setting but I wish that I had realized how important this is earlier in my career! I view research as a collaborative experience and want students to feel comfortable asking things. Asking questions is the best way to find what you are interested in, solve problems in the lab, and to grow as a scientist!

What is your research area and why are you passionate about it?

I am interested in the role plant hormones play in stem cell induction.

What do you like most about research?

I enjoy the hands-on nature about my research and the problem-solving and learning outcomes.

How would you describe your mentoring style?

My mentorship is complex; I aim to be an educator and cheerleader for my mentee. I want to educate the mentee on most of the background information while remaining positive and noting the growth and change a mentee is producing.

What is one piece of advice that you would give to students beginning research?

Never forget to give yourself grace and learn to acknowledge your accomplishments.

What is your research area and why are you passionate about it?

I am a plant geneticist. I am passionate about securing global food security, and I enjoy plant genetics as an avenue to find solutions to increase crop yields.

What do you like most about research?

I like the jazz of pursuing a research question; you think you’re onto something and then you make a mistake or you don’t get the outcome you expected. So then you have to improvise to find a new direction and that can lead to discovering surprising new answers. That’s what makes it exciting!

How would you describe your mentoring style?

I have an athletic background (XC and track) and I like to think of my students as part of my team. We are teammates. I expect my teammates to set goals and work hard to pursue them, and so will I! I provide a lot of structure, support and encouragement throughout a mentored research experience. And by working hard together, we create a space that elevates our potential to grow and succeed.

What is one piece of advice that you would give to students beginning research?

Get started and try something! I have talked with a lot of undergraduate researchers who are interested in doing research, but aren’t sure what topic or question they are interested in. I tell them to try something: If they like it, great! If they don’t like it, great- they just learned something new about themselves!

What is your research area and why are you passionate about it?

I love looking at the intraspecies diversity of bacteria and how genes can be shared! Strains of the same bacterial species will share a large portion of their genome but they will often also harbor other non-essential genes involved in everything from antibiotic resistance to virulence. Genomic analysis of these accessory genes can be extremely important in understanding how to combat human pathogens.

What do you like most about research?

I enjoy collaborating with scientists who have diverse backgrounds and expertise. Science is difficult and working with others who have knowledge you do not can help drive projects forward and help expand your set of skills. I also enjoy feeling like a detective, trying to solve a problem that no one knows the answer to.

How would you describe your mentoring style?

My mentoring style always changes depending on who I am mentoring and what style they prefer or need, I can be either hands off or on. I am always available to answer questions or provide help if students need it but in general I think research is an excellent opportunity for students to become more independent and work through problems.

What is one piece of advice that you would give to students beginning research?

Don’t be afraid to fail. Research experiments rarely work on the first try and troubleshooting is one of the most important skills to learn. If you make a mistake or your experiment does not go as planned don’t panic and don’t be afraid to ask for help.