Katherine: Caught in a rip current of research

Bodega Marine Lab is a magical place. It sucks you in like a rip current, enveloping you in all of its cool science and pulling you out to a brave new world of marine appreciation from whence you will never return.


Katherine presenting her research at the SACNAS conference in Fall 2018

Katherine presenting her research at the SACNAS conference in Fall 2018

As a community college student, I came to BML with absolutely zero research experience. I was eager to obtain any real lab experience possible, so when I got the opportunity to do an internship at BML in the Hill Lab this past summer, I was thrilled. Although I am most interested in molecular and cellular biology, I am still fascinated by a myriad of fields and research, and the research happening in the Hill Lab is no exception. As for what my role in the lab would be, I did not know what to expect and was fully prepared to do grunt work all summer, gleaning whatever I could about what life as a real scientist was like, whenever possible. That, however, was the antithesis of my actual experience.


            I had the pleasure of being mentored by Ph.D. candidate Hannah Palmer. Initially, I was going to aid Hannah in her research and data collection, but we soon identified a feasible summer project I could execute and take ownership of that interested me. So, I spent my summer looking at how the morphology of a few species of microfossils called benthic foraminifera (Bolivina argentea, Bolivina spissa, and Uvigerina peregrina) from the San Diego Margin has changed spatially and temporally over 700 years. I thought a lot about how that could possibly have climate change mitigation implications and what that could tell us about the paleoceanographic record. Hannah encouraged me to submit this project to SACNAS, a national conference for diversity in STEM, and I gave my first poster presentation there this past October, in San Antonio, Texas.


Having been given the chance to conduct my own research project was an amazing and highly educational experience for me. To be able to attend SACNAS and acquire even more practical knowledge by being able to share my research, receiving constructive feedback from supportive judges, and communicating the work I spent my summer on with my fellow students, was an advantageous and rewarding experience.


Meeting Latinx individuals (especially women) in STEM, both at SACNAS and in the Hill Lab, was particularly profound and inspiring for me. Getting to meet and see people who looked like me thrive in their respective STEM fields, at all levels of academia, encouraged me and helped me see myself in the positions I aspire to one day hold. Being surrounded by other students of color, sharing similar experiences and learning from their journeys, was incredibly useful. I made some valuable connections, networking with graduate students who I can see becoming part of my support network within science.


The mentorship program between the Santa Rosa Junior College and BML is one that I am grateful for and hope will continue to be implemented. Obtaining research experience as a community college student is difficult; research positions at such institutions are practically unheard of, and there are limited resources provided for finding research opportunities. The mentorship I received via this program has helped me in honing my career path and connected me with inspiring scientists who are dedicated to supporting upcoming scientists like myself.


Katherine is currently a student at Dominican University, where she transferred after starting her studies at SRJC. She will continue her pursuit of research this summer!